Luis Suárez scored two goals in Barça's 6–1 win over Rayo on Sunday. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

FC Barcelona took full advantage of an opponent that had the courage to come out and attack, storming to an electric 6–1 victory over Rayo Vallecano in front of a packed house at Camp Nou and vaulting them past Real Madrid into first place in the league standings.

A day for leaders

Leo Messi led the onslaught with his 32nd career hat trick – all three goals coming in a 12-minute span – giving him the all-time lead in that category in both La Liga and among all Spanish clubs in official games while also tying him with Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo as the league's top scorer on the season. Luís Suárez added a brace for the Catalans.

Messi’s third goal of the day came on 68 minutes after he collected a sublimely threaded pass from Pedro Rodríguez and faked Rayo keeper Cristian Álvarez out of position to angle the ball in, making it a 5–0 game while the Camp Nou crowd voiced approval by chanting his name in unison.

Rayo got their lone goal in the 80th minute as a last-ditch Dani Alves challenge in Barça’s penalty box was judged to have brought down Alberto Bueno without getting a piece of the ball. Alves was shown a straight red card and Bueno converted from 11 metres to make it 5–1.

Acute angles

Well after the victory had been sewn up, Suárez tallied his second goal of the day in the 90th minute after breaking free deep in Rayo territory, evading Cristian, and slanting the sphere home with aplomb, etching the final score into stone.

Suárez’s uncanny ability to overcome such hard angles also aided Barça as they opened the scoring early on in the first half. The Uruguayan took an exquisite pass from Xavi Hernández on five minutes, pranced into the area well to Cristian’s right, and flicked a marvelous touch-shot with the outside of his right foot past the keeper and just inside the far post.

Leap frog

Although Barça only led 1–0 at the half, there was a palpable feeling that their time had come to finally surpass Madrid in the table. On 49 minutes, defender Gerard Piqué bagged the second blaugrana score from close-range after a Xavi corner kick and a Jordi Alba header that rattled the woodwork. It was amidst the ensuing scramble right out in front that Piqué emerged with possession and extended the lead to 2–0.

Then, in the 53rd, Suárez was brought down in the Rayo area, resulting in a Barça penalty kick. The foul was Tito’s second yellow card of the game, leading to his expulsion, and leaving Rayo with 10 men for the remainder of the encounter. Messi’s kick from the spot was smothered by a diving Cristian, but the referee intervened and ruled that one of the Rayo players had entered the area too soon. On the retry, Messi did not miss, running the score to 3–0 at the 56-minute mark.

Seven minutes later, in the 63rd, Messi again finished what Suárez had started, cleaning up a rebound after Cristian couldn't corral a Suárez attempt. That goal, which was Messi's second, made it 4–0 and set the stage for his record-breaking hat trick.