MADRID (Reuters) – Lionel Messi scored two spectacular free kicks as Barcelona thrashed local rivals Espanyol 4-0 in Saturday’s Catalan derby to move three points clear at the top of La Liga.
The champions, who started the game level with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid on 28 points, swept to victory in Cornella as Messi put on a sublime show in the week he was ranked the fifth best player in the world at Monday’s Ballon d’Or awards.
The Argentine whipped a free kick into the top right corner in the 17th minute before brilliantly setting up Ousmane Dembele to double Barcelona’s lead.
Luis Suarez added the third just before halftime with a shot from a tight angle that deflected in off goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
Messi completed the rout with another special free kick in the 65th minute and VAR ruled out a consolation from Oscar Duarte for offside at the other end.
Espanyol’s fourth consecutive league defeat left them ninth in the standings.
(Reporting by Rik Sharma, editing by Ed Osmond)