Star striker Lionel Messi played a vital part as hosts Barcelona pounded Real Valladolid 5-1 on late Tuesday night to reclaim the lead in La Liga. The Argentine legend scored a brace and orchestrated two assists to bring Valladolid’s undefeated streak to five matches. With 22 points from 10 matches, the reigning champions are two points ahead of Granada and Atletico Madrid. The win now sees Barca extend their winning run at home to five games.
The hosts couldn’t have hoped for a better start as a poor clearance by Valladolid set up an easy goal for Clement Lenglet to make it 1-0 Barcelona. Messi’s first meaningful touch of the night was inauspicious, a hesitant free kick in the 14th minute that visiting goalkeeper Jordi Masip handled with ease.
The next sequence saw Valladolid pull level on a goal by Kiko Olivas, who converted Michel’s free-kick thanks to some confusion on the Barcelona backline.
Valladolid settled in to protect the draw and managed to stay on terms until the 29th minute, when Messi orchestrated a goal by Arturo Vidal to restore the lead for the Catalan club.
The 3-1 came just five minutes later, courtesy of a thunderous Messi free-kick from more than 20 yards out.
The Barcelona captain went on to force a save from Matip minutes before the break and carried that intensity over to the second half.
Messi delivered a perfect ball to Ansu Fati on Barca’s first charge after the re-start, but the side’s budding star failed in the 1v1 with Masip.
Valladolid enjoyed a good run of play and the Barcelona faithful at Camp Nou began to grow restless, prompting coach Ernesto Valverde to start making changes, replacing Frenkie de Jong and Fati with Ivan Rakitic and Antoine Griezmann, respectively.
But again, it was Messi who provided the magic, beating Masip with a laser-guided half-volley to boost the lead to 4-1 in the 75th minute, two minutes before he assisted on a Luis Suarez goal to complete the rout.