Lionel Messi struck a stunning hat-trick to ensure Barcelona maintained the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid with a 4-0 win away to Deportivo la Coruna to cut the gap at the top to one point.
“Messi has been at an extraordinarily high level all season,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique, despite reports of a dressing room rift between the two in recent weeks. “He hasn’t dipped at any point. He has been world class.”
In a change from his much criticised rotation policy, Enrique named the same side that beat Atletico 3-1 at home last weekend and was rewarded with another bright display illuminated by Messi’s class in front of goal.
The Argentine’s first effort of the game was brilliantly saved by Fabricio after a well-worked corner, but the Deportivo goalkeeper was helpless when the four-time World Player of the Year opened the scoring after 11 minutes with a thunderous header from Ivan Rakitic’s cross.
Messi then showed a more subtle touch for his second with a delicate chip over the prone Fabricio to double Barca’s advantage from Neymar’s pass.
However, by contrast, Luis Suarez’s troubles in front of goal continued as he fluffed his lines twice in the first-half with just Fabricio to beat.
Messi showed the Uruguayan how it should be done once more when he rounded off his 30th hat-trick for the club after the break when he cut inside onto his favoured left foot and fired into the far corner before an own goal from Deportivo defender Sidnei rounded off the scoring.