Messi's free-kick magic keeps Barca top

Messi's free-kick magic keeps Barca top

Messi's free-kick magic keeps Barca top

The five-time Ballon d'Or victor was inspirational for Barca, opening the scoring with an unstoppable free-kick, then setting up Ousmane Dembele for a superb curling finish.

Messi was leading Espanyol a merry dance and he set up Barca's second in the 26th minute, twisting and turning defenders on the edge of the box before slicing the back four open with a fine pass for Dembele, who cut inside and fired across Lopez into the top-right corner.

In Saturday's early kick-off, Atletico Madrid kept the pressure on with a 3-0 home win over Alaves, which also puts them on 28 points in third place.

Dembele justified coach Ernesto Valverde's decision with a lovely curling shot into the far corner of the Espanyol net and the game was virtually over as a contest when Luis Suarez made it 3-0 from a narrow angle.

Espanyol's long wait for a derby win goes on, and the hosts were denied a consolation goal in the 74th minute when defender Oscar Duarte stabbed the ball in at close range from a free-kick.

Messi was in fine form against derby rivals Espanyol.

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Mouctar Diakhaby's header in second half stoppage time for Valencia meant Sevilla missed the opportunity to stay just a point behind Barca.

Messi has won the award five times in a glittering career but was overlooked at Monday's ceremony with Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Cristiano Ronaldo and victor Luka Modric all receiving more votes.

Lionel Messi scored two free-kicks in a LaLiga game for the first time in his career as the Barcelona superstar set another personal landmark.

LaLiga leaders FC Barcelona extended their lead at the top after a 4-0 rout of Espanyol on Saturday evening.

- No player has made more assists than Barcelona's Lionel Messi in the Europe's top five leagues this season (eight, level with Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Milan's Suso).

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