Suarez Scores Hat-Trick As Barcelona Thump Girona


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Lionel Messi gave another masterful performance and Luis Suarez scored a hat trick to lead Barcelona to a new club record after routing Girona 6-1 in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Messi was at his imperious best, while Philippe Coutinho scored his first La Liga goal for Barcelona, as Ernesto Valverde's side moved 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Valverde has favoured a 4-4-2 formation for most of the season but after his side had struggled to a 1-1 draw at Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday the coach opted for an ultra-attacking 4-3-3 against Girona, with Dembele often joining the South American trio to create a ruthless four-man attack.

Ivan Rakitic picked the wrong moment to get involved in the showboating spirit of Barcelona's all-star line-up when his ill-advised backheel led to Girona's third-minute opener. The visitors broke quickly after Sergio Busquets gave the ball away, allowing Girona to come forward through Lozano.

Girona were making their debut at the Nou Camp, in their first season in the top flight, but it was all downhill after Portu took advantage of Samuel Umtiti's lapse in judgment before firing home via both posts.

Girona took a surprising lead in the second minute as Portu found the back of the net with a fine finish.

Messi nearly put Barcelona ahead after 19 minutes after Suarez had picked him out in the box.

The Argentinian superstar soon clicked into virtuoso mode with some sumptuous passing and, when Suarez returned the favour of his earlier assist, Bernardo Espinosa scampered back to head Messi's chip off the line.

The Barcelona captain was looking in top form, and it was little surprise when he fired Barcelona ahead after half an hour.

Six minutes later, Messi bagged his second and Barca's third on the night with a fine kick that went under the wall and sailed into the bottom corner.

Barca's record signing Coutinho had set up Suarez's second goal and then struck for the first time in La Liga with a spectacular long-distance shot from well outside of the area in the 66th minute.

Suarez did complete his hat-trick with 14 minutes remaining as the Uruguayan striker turned home Ousmane Dembele's low cross, 6-1.

Barcelona ended the game with 10 men as Semedo was forced off with injury after Valverde had already made his substitutions. "Messi is always the one who makes the difference and he was especially good tonight".