Barcelona extended their lead at the top of the La Liga table to three points, as they thrashed neighbours Espanyol 4-0 away from home.
Barcelona, inspired by club captain and superstar Lionel Messi, romped home to an emphatic 4-0 victory over RCD Espanyol in the Catalan derby at the Cornella El-Prat on Saturday night.
After a rather tense start to the affairs, the Argentinean produced a moment of magic, firing a sensational free-kick into the top corner from 30 yards out to put Barcelona ahead in the 17th minute. Ten minutes later, the reigning La Liga champions went two up, with Ousmane Dembele finding the back of the net, after being played in by Messi.
The game was dead and buried by half-time, as Luis Suarez made it 3-0, squeezing in a finish from a tight angle. Twenty minutes into the second period, Messi recreated the magic from the first half, producing another delightful free-kick from a similar distance to put further distance between his team and Espanyol.
Oscar Duarte seemed to have pulled a goal back for the home team, but saw his effort ruled out for offside, after consultation with the VAR, as Barcelona earned the bragging rights in the derby with a comfortable victory. The result meant Ernesto Valverde’s men are now three points ahead of second-placed Sevilla on the La Liga table.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 8, 2018
Here’s how the Blaugrana superstars fared on the night against their local rivals.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
The German international was hardly called into action on Saturday by Los Periquitos. Was alert when needed to be and made a couple of routine stops. A comfortable outing and another clean sheet in the bag.
Nelson Semedo: 7/10
The Portuguese full-back is growing in confidence, now that he is getting a regular run of games in the first-team. Always on the prowl to get forward and was extremely impressive in the defensive side of things as well, leading the charts for tackles won. Semedo’s pace allowed him to stop a few dangerous counter-attacks from the home team.
Gerard Pique: 7/10
The former Spanish international was constantly booed and whistled by the home support, owing to some controversial statements he had made earlier this year. Did not let it affect him, however, as he kept his head down and worked towards ensuring there were no slip-ups at the back.
Clement Lenglet: 7/10
Tasked with keeping the dangerous Borja Iglesias under wraps, the Frenchman accomplished his task without any great difficulty. There were a few moments when he gave the ball away, but Lenglet was a composed presence at the back. Distribution from the back was also impressive, while he threatened in the opposition box in set-piece situations as well.
Jordi Alba: 6.5/10
The Spaniard wasn’t as effective as he can be going forward, with his movement curtailed to some extent owing to the presence of Dembele ahead of him. Solid and reliable at the back, Alba showed more adventure in attack once Philippe Coutinho was introduced.
Ivan Rakitic: 7.5/10
One of the Croatian international’s most influential displays of the 2018-19 campaign. Rakitic made a match-high seven interceptions, ensuring the home team never really posed any serious threat. Kept things ticking over with great ease in the middle and started a number of forward moves. Fired a header straight at the Espanyol goalkeeper in the first half.
Sergio Busquets: 6.5/10
Barcelona’s midfield mainstay had a bit of a problem with the home team’s intense pressing in the middle and was forced into a few errors. But, in general, Busquets kept things under control, without really standing out a great deal. A quiet outing for the Spaniard.
Arturo Vidal: 7/10
Another all-action performance, filled with great energy from the summer arrival in his first ever Catalan derby. Vidal helped his team out defensively, recovering possession consistently and was always looking to push forward and join his teammates in attacking moves.
Lionel Messi: 10/10
Absolute magic. Opened the scoring with a sensational free-kick and then set Dembele up for Barcelona’s second with a sublime assist soon after. Hit the inside of the post once, before producing another mesmerising set-piece goal after the break. By far the best player on the field, with his dribbling and passing on some other level altogether.
He may have finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or voting, but Messi showed his class and quality with a perfect display in the derby.
Luis Suarez: 7.5/10
Back into the starting XI after recovering from a knee problem, the 31-year-old went about his business in his usual style, hassling the opposition and posing a threat with his all-round play. Scored a fine goal on the verge of half-time, having already hit the post once before. Taken off for the final ten minutes.
Ousmane Dembele: 8/10
The World Cup winner scored a spectacular goal to double Barcelona’s lead in the first half, before setting Suarez up for the third with a brilliant through pass. Was always a threat with his pace and running, although Dembele did waste a couple of decent chances on the break. Replaced twenty minutes into the second period as he started to tire.
Philippe Coutinho: 6/10
Came on for Dembele in the 68th minute amid jeers from the supporters of his former club. Showed a few good touches here and there, but did not make a major impact.
Munir El Haddadi: N/A
Replaced Suarez in the 79th minute, as the manager looked to give some rest to the Uruguayan international.
Denis Suarez: N/A
A late substitute for Ivan Rakitic.