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Messi, Neymar & Suárez, unstoppable / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Neymar Júnior scored a goal in each half, Luis Suárez scored once in between, and Lionel Messi joined the party late as FC Barcelona cruised to a 4–0 La Liga victory over Real Sociedad on Saturday afternoon at Camp Nou.

It was another scintillating performance by the Trident, FC Barcelona’s ruthlessly effective forward line, which, after getting all four goals on Saturday, has now scored 30 of the team’s 33 league goals so far this season, an astonishing 91 per cent share, just one in a panoply of staggering figures being put up by the big three this season.

Neymar and Suárez, one-two on the league goalscoring list, once again proved they are serious threats in the race for the Pichichi Trophy.

With the fans at Camp Nou hoping Messi would not be left off the score sheet, Barça’s number 10, making his third appearance after a two-month stint on the injury list, gave them their wish in the 91st minute, when he slotted in a pass from Neymar, giving the Catalans their final goal of the day.

Just prior to Messi’s goal, FC Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a superb close-range stop on Bruma in the 86th to preserve a third straight clean sheet.

In what was billed as a homecoming for former Barça player and assistant coach Eusebio Sacristán, now at the helm of Real Sociedad, his ex-team did the football equivalent of pulling the welcome-back mat out from underneath his feet. Sacristán, coaching just his second First Division game, was unable to solve the Barça juggernaut, proving that having a deep understanding of the Catalans’ style of play has little to do with being able to counter it on the field.

FC Barcelona opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, when Daniel Alves, working on the right wing, rolled a cross through the area to Neymar. The Brazilian striker — engaged in a foot race to the ball with Real Sociedad defender Gorka Elustondo — got there first, one timing from 6 metres into the upper right corner for a 1–0 lead.

It was the 13th league goal of the season and 15th overall for Neymar, who continues to lead La Liga.

In the 42nd minute, Alves, still perched out on the right flank, was the catalyst once again. This time, however, the Brazilian full back got his assist not by land, but by air, lobbing a beautifully arcing cross towards the far post. By the time the ball fell earthward, the only one in position to make a play was Suárez and, after some rapid calculations of the ball’s speed and trajectory, the Uruguayan cocked his leg and pulled the trigger, firing a side volley low to the ground and into the back of the net for a 2–0 lead.

For Suárez, it was his 12th La Liga goal of the season — his team-leading 18th overall — and solidified his number two slot on the Pichichi list, while also bringing the gap with his line mate Neymar back to one goal.

Seven minutes after halftime, though, in the 52nd minute, Neymar made it 3–0, tapping in from close range after defender Jérémy Mathieu rolled a cross from the left wing. Suárez had been waiting alongside Neymar as the cross came through, but with each player appearing ready to cede to the other, it was Neymar who stuck out his boot for the easy score, his 14th.

In the waning minutes Messi looked destined to be held scoreless, especially when he hit the crossbar in the 87th, eliciting a collective 'ooh' from the 74,020 fans eager to see him add to Barça’s tally. Then, a few minutes later, Neymar found Messi just steps from the goal line and the crowd got its wish.

The victory for FC Barcelona means they still hold a four-point lead in the La Liga table over second-placed Atlético Madrid, who played right after Barça on Saturday evening and won to keep pace. The Catalans have also provisionally stretched to nine points their lead over archrivals Real Madrid, who are in third place and visit Eibar on Sunday.

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