New Delhi: La Liga leaders FC Barcelona came from behind to cruise to victory at home over Girona and piled the pressure on second-placed Atletico Madrid who play away to Sevilla.
It was the perfect outing for Barcelona after ninth-placed Girona had taken a shock early lead on their first-ever visit to the Camp Nou, as Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele shone on their first start together.
Portu took advantage of hesitation from Barca center-back Samuel Umtiti to round goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and slot into an empty net to put Girona ahead in La Liga’s newest Catalan derby.
The hosts took less than two minutes to get back on level terms, though, as Messi collected the ball in midfield before sending Suarez through to score.
Messi’s wizardry put Ernesto Valverde’s side in front on the half-hour mark, after Suarez touched down a long pass from Andres Iniesta for the Argentinian.
It looked as though the chance had gone when Messi was forced wide, but the league’s top scorer showed trademark footwork to jink past several defenders before slotting into the bottom corner.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was running the show, and he doubled the advantage just seven minutes later with a low free-kick under the wall.
“It always seems that he has done everything and then suddenly, he surprises us again, as with his free kick. It sounds easy but it is not,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.
Having gone five games without a goal before his crucial equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Chelsea in the Champions League in midweek, Messi has scored three in two games.
Barcelona’s fourth goal came on the stroke of half-time with Girona’s defenders left begging for the interval after Messi’s perfectly-weighted pass found Coutinho to square for Suarez to tap in.
The Catalan giants eased off slightly in the second half, but Coutinho got off the mark in the league in style as he cut inside and curled a long-range strike into the far corner.
French winger Dembele played his part too late on as he crossed from the left for Suarez to complete a hat-trick.
After a slow start to the campaign, the Uruguayan forward has now scored 17 goals in his last 14 league matches.
Meanwhile, Barca’s 6-1 win on Saturday put them 10 points ahead of Atletico and retained their 14-point advantage on Real Madrid, who won 4-0 at home to Alaves earlier in the day. (With Agencies inputs)