Lionel Messi delivered a sensational performance scoring four goals as Barcelona hammered Eibar 6-1 on Tuesday night at the Camp Nou.
Messi converted a penalty in the first half before scoring a second-half hat-trick, while for the second straight match Denis Suarez and Paulinho each found the back of the net in what was a straightforward win for the hosts.
The Ernesto Valverde era at Barcelona continues to be promising, as the new manager has managed to extract the best out of Denis Suarez, while seamlessly incorporating summer arrival Paulinho into the mix. The Brazilian, in particular, has Barcelona fans excited with his hunter’s mentality in front of goal, creativity in attack and instant chemistry with Messi.
Valverde raised a few eyebrows with his team selection, opting to rest Luis Suarez. With Ousmane Dembele also out 3-4 months with an injury, Gerard Deulofeu and Denis Suarez, who enjoyed a fine outing at Getafe, joined Messi in the attack. Paulinho also was rewarded for his winning goal on Saturday and started in midfield for Ivan Rakitic, while Semedo, Javier Mascherano, and Lucas Digne replaced Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, and Jordi Alba, respectively, in defense.
Eibar showed no fear in trying to take the game to Barcelona and pressured the hosts high up the pitch. Their tenacity created a few looks at goal, including early chances for Sergi Enrich and Inui.
As expected though, Barcelona found their footing and soon enough they had a 1-0 lead when Messi converted a penalty after a borderline foul committed by Alex Galvez on Semedo in the Eibar area.
The two men who were the revelations of Saturday’s late win at Getafe then hooked up to double the margin 2-0 for Barcelona toward the end of the half. Denis Suarez swung in a corner kick from the left, and Paulinho met it perfectly, spearing a header past Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic, who didn’t have any time to react.
With the two-goal advantage, Barcelona played an unhurried, comfortable brand of football to open the second half and again more good work from Paulinho and Denis Suarez led to the Catalonians’ third. Paulinho executed a dummy that allowed Messi to run in on goal, only to see Dmitrovic block the Argentine’s effort. But the ball spun right to Denis Suarez, who took a touch and curled in a right-footer for the 3-0 lead.
The Barcelona defense went to sleep after the goal and they paid the price. Minutes later the Denis Suarez goal, Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was digging the ball out of his own net after Enrich got loose from Gerard Pique and redirected Junca’s cross into the net to make it 3-1.
Messi responded in kind and just shy of the hour mark La Pulga restored the three-goal lead, 4-1, by receiving a pass and sending a torpedo that beat Dmitrovic at the near post.
Eibar was still keen to attack, but they left way too much room for Barcelona to operate on the counter and in the blink of an eye Messi had his hat-trick after a nifty one-two combination played with Paulinho for a 5-1 lead.
Moments after Eibar’s Ruben Pena hit the post late on with a shot, Messi scored his fourth and final of the night, this time finishing a one-two combination with substitute Aleix Vidal to complete the 6-1 scoreline.
Barcelona returns to action on Saturday with a trip to nearby Girona.