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After scoring a hat-trick on Sunday night, Luis Suárez now leads La Liga with 18 goals. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Luis Suárez scored three goals in the second half as FC Barcelona routed ten-man Athletic Club Bilbao 6–0 on Sunday night at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic also scored in the goal glut following a 4th minute expulsion to Athletic Club goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz that put the Basques in a hole from which they had little chance of escaping.

The win keeps Barça in second place in the La Liga table, although they still have a game in hand, and runs their unbeaten streak to 22 games across all competitions.

Suárez’s trifecta gives him 18 on the season, best in La Liga.  Neymar scored his 16th, which ties for him second with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Athletic Club might have missed leading scorer Aritz Aduriz and midfield stalwart Raul García, out to suspension and injury, respectively, but after going down a man with virtually the whole game left to play, having them in the lineup likely wouldn’t have mattered.

By the time Suárez had secured his hat-trick in the 81st minute, after nodding home a cross from Sergio Busquets that ran the score to 6–0, the game had been all but declared over. 

With the game not yet five minutes old, Suárez was tripped up by Iraizoz after chasing down a deep ball in the Athletic Club penalty area. The referee pointed to the spot and pulled the red card from his pocket, dismissing Iraizoz and sending the Basques down to ten men for the 80-plus minutes still to play.

Suárez managed to catch up to the long pass and draw the foul only after nimbly side-stepping Athletic Club defender Xabier Etxeita, who had initially beaten Suárez to the ball but doubted for a split second whether to attempt a clearance or a back-pass to Iraizoz.

Messi was tasked with the spot kick and, following a chilly, four-minute delay that saw Iago Herrerín come in to replace Iraizoz, blasted it inside the right post for the 1–0 lead.

Up a man and attacking with ease, Barça juxtaposed a panoply of potent yet off-target shots with a finesse goal on 31 minutes when Neymar softly chipped in over a charging Herrerín to double the lead.

Messi — who was honoured before the game and presented his fifth Ballon d’Or to the fans at Camp Nou, felt some discomfort in his right leg near the end of the first half and was replaced as a precaution by Arda Turan to start the second. Messi is expected to undergo tests on Monday.

But with Neymar and Suárez still in the game, the trident-turned-bident continued to inflict misery on the shorthanded Basques.

Less than two minutes after emerging from the dressing room, FCB added their third of the night when Suárez slotted in from mid-range after teaming up with Neymar on a double give-and-go that effortlessly split the Basque defence like a hot knife slicing through a stick of butter. 

In the 60th minute, Neymar clinically set up Ivan Rakitic for Barça’s fourth goal of the evening after bamboozling a defender on the left wing and, from the end line, flicking the ball out in front to Rakitic, who nutmegged Herrerín from the doorstep to make it 4–0.

Suárez made it 5–0 in the 67th with his second goal of the game. The Uruguayan used his chest to settle a Turan cross before tapping home.

The two sides meet again in less than 72 hours when FC Barcelona travel to Bilbao on Wednesday night in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals at the Estadio de San Mamés. Kick off is set for 9.00pm CET.


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