BARCELONA – Lionel Messi scored a hat trick and Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez contributed a goal each on Saturday as FC Barcelona pounded cross-town rival Espanyol 5-0 at Camp Nou to claim first place in La Liga.
The Argentine international opened the scoring in the 26th minute after receiving a pinpoint pass in the area from Ivan Rakitic.
Messi returned the favor a few minutes later, but Espanyol goalkeeper Pau Lopez made a great stop against the Croatian.
The second goal came in the 35th minute, when Messi connected from the near post with an assist from Jordi Alba.
Pablo Piatti had a chance to pull one back for Espanyol three minutes before the half-time break only for his shot to bounce off the post.
Piatti got a second opportunity early in the second half thanks to a poor clearance by Alba, but his attempt to chip the ball over Barça keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen rolled out of bounds.
Samuel Umtiti made a stop when Espanyol’s Leo Baptistao had Ter Stegen beat at the hour mark.
The contest was settled seven minutes later with Messi’s third of the night. Pique headed-in a corner in the 87 minute and Suarez scored on a counter in the final minute of regulation to complete the rout.
New man Ousmane Dembele – Barcelona’s most expensive acquisition to date – came on as a sub for the final 20 minutes and had an assist on the Suarez goal.
Barcelona leads La Liga with nine points from three matches, two ahead of Sevilla and three up on Real Sociedad, who will be in action Sunday.