Lionel Messi scored four goals as Barcelona thrashed Eibar 6-1 to move five points clear at the top of La Liga.
Having put Barca ahead with a 20th-minute penalty, and seen Paulinho double their lead on 38 minutes, Messi was the focal point of an improved second-half display from Ernesto Valverde’s men as he notched his 28th league hat-trick.
Denis Suarez, preferred in attack to the rested Luis Suarez, also found the net on the night as Barca maintained their 100 per cent start to the campaign in style.
Eibar gave a lethargic Barca a run for their money early on, but were consigned to a seventh straight defeat to their illustrious opponents, with Sergi Enrich’s second-half strike mere consolation.
Barca were slow out of the traps and were almost made to pay as Enrich evaded the offside trap but failed to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a tame effort, before Takashi Inui was also denied by the German.
Barca were toothless in attack until 20 minutes when Messi converted a penalty after Alejandro Galvez was penalised for a foul on Nelson Semedo.
But that ushered in a period of Barca dominance as Paulinho, making his first start for the club, headed in his second goal in as many games, and Suarez lashed in the hosts’ third after Eibar keeper Marko Dmitrovic parried a fierce Messi drive on 53 minutes.
Eibar responded immediately as Enrich converted a David Junca cross to reduce the arrears, but their joy was short-lived as Messi threaded the ball home to restore Barca’s three-goal lead and sealed his hat-trick two minutes later with a low shot beyond Dmitrovic.
Lionel Messi – hat-tricks
Club & country – 43
Barcelona – 39
La Liga – 28 pic.twitter.com/owuLRrD6Hs
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) September 19, 2017
Substitute Ruben Pena hit the post as Eibar pushed for a late consolation, but Messi has the final word, converting Aleix Vidal’s cut-back to seal a resounding victory.
Eibar hit the woodwork for the second time late on with a Charles’ header, but nothing would take the gloss off a fine display from the Catalans as they continued their fine start to the season.