Messi's cheeky free kick tops Barca's 6-1 win

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their third goal with Ousmane Dembele. Off a free kick, he hit the ball under the defensive wall instead of over it.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their third goal with Ousmane Dembele. Off a free kick, he hit the ball under the defensive wall instead of over it.PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • Even after everything he has done, Lionel Messi still has the ability to bewilder his Barcelona team-mates and coach Ernesto Valverde.

The Argentine maestro scored twice, including a cheeky free kick, in the 6-1 comeback win over Girona on Saturday and set a club record of 32 games unbeaten in the league.

The LaLiga leaders overcame going a goal down to cruise to a victory which gave them a 10-point advantage at the top, with a Luis Suarez hat-trick and first league goal for record signing Philippe Coutinho ensuring the three points.

Visiting striker Portu gave Girona a surprise lead in the third minute before Suarez quickly equalised.

Messi then gave Barca a 2-1 lead after a mesmeric dribble from the byeline but he pulled an altogether different trick from up his sleeve to score their third, hitting the ball straight across the pitch and taking visiting goalkeeper Bono completely by surprise.

Barca have become used to Messi's spectacular strike rate from free kicks but he had never before scored by hitting the ball under a defensive wall.

"He tricked us all with the goal, it's incredible how good he is, he seems to play better with every game," midfielder Coutinho said.

Messi, who has 30 goals from all competitions this season, had Valverde reaching for the superlatives for his free kick.

Valverde said: "We all expected to see how he would get it over the wall, but he hits it under.

"You see it and you think it's easy. Leo just makes it look easy, but it's not that easy.

The match was also special for Messi personally, as it was the first since the death of his maternal grandfather at home in Rosario in Argentina.

Valverde's side also surpassed the club's longest run without defeat in the league, which had stood since April 2011 when Pep Guardiola was in charge of the Catalans.

Earlier on Saturday, Real Madrid's "BBC" strikeforce hit back with a vengeance when Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all scored in a 4-0 win at home to Alaves, a fifth successive win in all competitions for Zinedine Zidane's side.

Barca lead the standings on 65 points, 10 clear of Atletico Madrid, who visited Sevilla late yesterday and 14 ahead of champions Real.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'Messi's cheeky free kick tops Barca's 6-1 win'. Print Edition | Subscribe