Lionel Messi Hat-Trick Leads Barcelona Past Espanyol in Catalan Derby

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2017

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) celebrates with Barcelona's defender Jordi Alba after scoring his second goal during the Spanish Liga football match Barcelona vs Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE        (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Lionel Messi was once again the hero for Barcelona in the Catalan derby against Espanyol, scoring a hat-trick to lead his team to a 5-0 win in La Liga.

The Argentinian scored twice in the first half to give his team the lead despite Espanyol's good start, and he added to his tally after the break. Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez put the final score on the board.

Here's a look at the two teams:

Espanyol traditionally play their local rivals as aggressively as they can, and things weren't any different early on Saturday. While Barcelona took control of the ball and threatened with their intricate passing, chances were few with Espanyol digging in their heels.

It took a full 20 minutes before goalkeeper Pau Lopez had any real work to do, and he saved an ambitious free-kick from Suarez.

Perhaps surprisingly, the first booking of the match did not fall to Espanyol. Sergio Busquets prevented a counter-attack with a cynical trip on Leo Baptistao in the 21st minute and rightly paid the price.

Espanyol grew bolder as the half wore on and impressively kept their opponents at bay until Ivan Rakitic picked out Messi with a clever pass. Messi was well offside, but the linesman missed it and instead allowed the goal to stand.

B/R Football couldn't help itself:

The goal messed up Espanyol's rhythm, and Suarez almost took advantage with yet another free-kick. Rakitic went even closer after a superb attack, but Pau got down quickly to make a stunning save.

A second goal seemed inevitable, and it was Messi who took care of business, with Jordi Alba scooping up the ball and the maestro providing the finish.

Per, the 30-year-old's home record is something else:

Messi and Rakitic missed great chances to add a third goal before the half-time break, and Pablo Piatti almost shocked the Camp Nou when he hit the post late with a volley.

Suarez nearly started the second half with a bang, as yet another great save by Pau denied him the third goal, and Piatti also went close after a horrendous touch from Alba.

Messi and Suarez failed to find the target from promising positions, and with Espanyol pushing up the pitch, a third goal seemed necessary to preserve the win. As noted by Robbie Dunne of AS English, manager Ernesto Valverde reacted:

But before the young Frenchman could even enter the pitch, Messi completed his hat-trick, with Alba again providing the assist.

The third goal took the spice out of the match, and Suarez and Paulinho wasted good chances to add to the total. Didac Vila drew a fine save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and then Pique added another goal with a textbook header.

The hosts took full advantage of their dejected opponents to push their lead further in injury time, with Suarez scoring off an assist from Ousmane Dembele.