MADRID, Spain, Sep 2 – A magical Lionel Messi and on-form Luis Suarez scored doubles apiece as champions Barcelona thrashed newly-promoted Huesca 8-2 to join Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday.
Barcelona’s third win of the campaign in as many games saw Ernesto Valverde’s men go top thanks to superior goal difference over Real before the break for Nations League matches.
Celta Vigo, who stunned Atletico Madrid 2-0 on Saturday, sit in third place at two points adrift with Atletico now five points adrift of the top after a shaky start to the campaign.
Huesca travelled to the Camp Nou perhaps more in hope than belief, although it was the latter that dominated the Aragaon-based minnows’ thinking in the early stages after Cucho Hernandez headed past Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to hand them a surprise third-minute lead.
But reality soon kicked in, a slick Messi levelling in the 16th minute after leaving right-back Luisinho on the deck on his way to beating Argentine goalkeeper Axel Werner.
Eight minutes later VAR was deployed to confirm an own goal from defender Jorge Pulido, who got his foot to Jordi Alba’s cutback before it wriggled past Werner and into the net.
Alba, recently left out of Spain’s squad by former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, was in the thick of it again on 39 minutes when he set up Suarez to put Barca 3-1 in front by the 39th minute with his maiden goal of the campaign.
Although Alex Gallar pulled one back for the visitors three minutes before the interval when he turned in Hernandez’s deflected cross to reduce arrears to 3-2, it merely delayed a second-half onslaught.
– Level with Benzema –
Barca emerged from the dressing room to hit five goals, Ousmane Dembele starting the rout with an angled drive that beat Werner on 48 minutes.
Four minutes later Ivan Rakitic’s superb half-volley from Messi’s delivery had the Camp Nou on its feet.
Messi doubled his tally for the night on the hour mark to make it four in three games and completed his night’s work by setting up Jordi Alba for a magnificent seventh nine minutes from the final whistle.
Barcelona made it eight in the final seconds of the game when Suarez stepped up to beat Werner from the spot.
“It’s always important to be top of the league but it’s barely started,” Suarez told beIN Sports.
“The championship is very long and the main thing is to keep on doing as we are.”
Messi’s haul of four goals means he is level with Real striker Karim Benzema, the Argentine star foregoing the opportunity to take the sole lead of the scoring charts when he allowed Suarez to hit the late penalty.
With a question mark still hanging over his international career, Messi is expected to return from the international break rested having decided not to play for Argentina during the international break.