Messi scored two late goals to cap a perfect afterrnoon / PHOTO: VÍCTOR SALGADO-FCB

[[DES_1]]Christmas came early at the Camp Nou as Barça feasted the fans with a five-goal display against Córdoba that will put plenty of pressure on leaders Real Madrid, who have no game this weekend due to the Clubs World Cup.

Dream start

The afternoon got off to the perfect start when Barça took the lead in the very first move of the game. Ivan Rakitic chipped the ball forward and Pedro met it with a wonderful piece of control before slamming home the opener.

The rest of the half saw Barça in complete control and having plenty of chances to extend their lead. It looked like a spectacular left-footer from Luis Suárez had gone in after 11 minutes, but the ball had hit the side-netting, and a wonderful backheel from Pedro to set up Iniesta ended up with the latter’s shot being blocked by the Córdoba defence. As the half progressed, the visitors started to look more and more lively, especially on the counter attack, with Ghilas and Fede Cartabia both working their way into fine positions but letting themselves down with their shooting.

On the stroke of half-time Gerard Piqué came frustratingly close when his header was on the point of bouncing over Juan Carlos. But the Córdoba keeper got a hand to it to ensure the first 45 minutes ended 1-0.

Suárez at last

The second half was just seven minutes old when the Camp Nou was treated to a much awaited moment. Luis Suárez’s first league goal in a Barça shirt came when he coolly controlled the ball inside the Córdoba area and produced a fine finish to extend the home side’s lead.

Moments later a long range strike from Rakitic rattled off the post, but the next half hour was a strangely quiet affair, with Barça dominating the possession and Córdoba producing plenty of counter attacks but neither side creating much in the way of real chances.

Brilliant finale

Things burst back to life in the final ten minutes, with Barça firing home three goals in rapid succession to take the day’s overall tally up to five. Piqué rose to head home a Xavi assist and make it three and straight from restart Barça won a corner. Juan Carlos parried Xavi’s kick straight into the path of Leo Messi, and the Argentinian doesn’t waste gifts like that. He stroked the ball into the Córdoba net and in the blink of an eyelid Barça were 4-0 up and it was game over.

There was still time for more. Deep into injury time, Messi got his second of the night. Collecting the ball with his back to goal, he swivelled on the spot and finished the move with a fine shot to beat Juan Carlos. A stunning piece of skill executed with such perfection that he made it look easy. Barça couldn’t have wished for a better end to 2014, and now it’s time for the players to get a well-earned rest over the festive season.

Man City beat Palace 3-0

Barça’s Champions League rivals Manchester City also won today, 3-0 against Crystal Palace at the Etihad, which momentarily puts them joint top of the Premiership with Chelsea, who play Stoke City on Monday.

Despite dominating the play, City took 49 minutes to find the Palace net when Silva converted a Zabaleta assist. Moments later, the Canary islander got his second by striking home a cross from Kolarov on the left. Former FCB man Yaya Touré finished off the job with a goal on the counter attack.

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