The man is just ridiculous. We know how special he is and we should never be amazed by the things he does. And yet Lionel Messi has this innate ability to still excite us after all these years.
The Argentine magician conjured a hat-trick as Barcelona overcame their bogey team in recent years, Messi magnificent as the Catalans beat Celta Vigo 4-1 at the Camp Nou.
Messi equalled Cristiano Ronaldo for La Liga hat-tricks with his 34th in Spain’s top-flight. He rolled in a penalty for the opener before Celta struck back when Lucas Olaza channelled his inner Messi to net a free-kick after the main man had been harshly adjudged to have fouled Pape Cheikh. But minutes later order was restored, Messi – perhaps irked at Olaza’s attempt to upstage him – fired in from 25 yards when Arthur was pulled back.
That was a minute into first half stoppage time. Three minutes after the restart he did it again – almost identically sweeping past the helpless Ruben Blanco as the Camp Nou clapped contently. Substitute Sergio Busquets rifled in a fourth at the death.
Here’s our Barcelona player ratings:
Marc-Andre ter Stegen 8: Well beaten for the goal, but perhaps didn’t cover himself in glory with the left side of the goal exposed. Beat away a long-range effort before getting down well to deny Pione Sisto and making a few other solid stops.
Nelson Semedo 6: Strangely subbed off after barely 20 minutes, exchanging words with Valverde as he exited. Not sure what he did, if anything, to get hooked. Perhaps Valverde just didn’t like how he’d set his side up.
Samuel Umtiti 6: The knees dealt well with the darting runs of Iago Aspas and he led Barca in interceptions (3), although he committed the most fouls too (5) and was booked.
Gerard Pique 6: Had to be alert as Celta always carried a threat, even if they never really were able to pierce through the Barca breast plate.
Junior Firpo 6: A livewire down the left in the first half and cleverly dinked his cross as Joseph Aidoo stupidly raised his arm. Linked up well with Dembele but quieter in the second half.
Arthur 7: Powerful run could not be halted initially by Fran Beltran, who had a second nibble. Messi made him pay. Weaving run also led to Messi goal but ball had gone out of play. A marauding, purposeful outing.
Frenkie de Jong 6: Young Dutchman’s seamless integration continued, going about his work with minimum fuss, even if he didn’t stand out, apart from metronomic passing. Conceded four fouls.
Sergi Roberto 6: Started in a more advanced position but slotted in at right-back when Semedo went off. Was an assured presence there.
Lionel Messi 9: Can do no wrong… even when he does. Coolness personified to slot opener from the spot. Harshly booked for foul on Cheikh – worse was to follow. But whipped in his own stunner from 25 yards to restore Barca’s lead, then did it again. Mesmeric.
34 - Lionel Messi has equaled Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with the most hat-tricks scored in LaLiga history (34). Duel. pic.twitter.com/qQUlfrgFFp— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 9, 2019
Antoine Griezmann 4: It’s just not happening for the Frenchman. On the periphery both in terms of his position on the pitch and his place in this Barca team. Blasted an effort at Blanco after played in by Messi.
Ansu Fati 5: Tried to pick out Griezmann and link up with Messi but it wasn’t clicking initially, they needed a helping hand to take the lead. Replaced by Dembele at the break.
Sergio Busquets 7: Perhaps Valverde checked his Twitter during the first half to be confronted by the stat that Barca are unbeaten in their seven games that Busquets has started, and lost three of four without him. Calm on the ball and cracked in a fourth to end it – his first goal in two years.
Ousmane Dembele 7: On at the break and nearly an instant impact as he wriggled free and curled a wicked shot just wide. Great run and vision later picked out Messi in centre but captain couldn’t quite get there.
Luis Suarez 6: Replaced Griezmann to get some minutes in the legs. Looked lively.
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