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Despite conceding first in the Catalan derby, a Lionel Messi inspired FC Barcelona enjoyed a big win over their local rivals. Two goals from the Argentinian, a hat-trick from Luis Suárez and a super strike from Philippe Coutinho kept the unbeaten run going.
Barça almost took the lead with the first attack of what turned out to be a spectacular game, and one in which the Blaugrana were on the front foot straightaway. However, it was Girona, via a sharp finish from Portu, who registered first.
The breathless start continued. With only four minutes on the clock, a slide rule pass from Messi found Suárez and he made no mistake with a low left-footed drive. Presentable chances came and went at both ends, with Ousmane Dembélé’s pace in particular starting to cause problems for the Girona back line.
Both sides tried to gain a firm foothold in an exciting and very open match and Messi looked to have extended Barça’s lead after he chipped the goalkeeper, only for Bernardo to get back and head the ball away from virtually underneath the crossbar. The No.10 wouldn’t be denied and in the next attack, despite being surrounded by three defenders and moving away from goal, the Argentinian still managed to wrap his foot around the ball to fire the hosts into the lead.
An incredible piece of skill from Messi followed to put the Blaugrana further ahead. His direct free-kick was expertly placed underneath the wall as the defenders jumped (3-1), and he was involved yet again, along with Coutinho, in the build up to Luis Suárez’s second, Barça’s fourth, before half time.
The second half took on the same pattern as the first and Barça were denied a fifth as Suárez’s curling shot hit the woodwork. The hosts came streaming forward, constantly pressurising their opponents, with Dembélé inches away from opening his account shortly after.
A signature Coutinho goal followed on 66, the Brazilian making space for himself before fizzing a shot beyond the desperate grasp of Girona keeper Bono. Suárez finally got his hat-trick goal with just under a quarter hour to play, Dembélé putting the chance on a plate for his colleague.
Both Gerard Pique and Nelson Semedo were forced off with injuries, whilst a yellow card for Jordi Alba will see him suspended for the trip to Las Palmas. They were the only sour notes on a night when Ernesto Valverde’s team set a new club record of 32 consecutive games without defeat.
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