Football

Enrique hails mesmeric Messi after Espanyol win

Enrique hails Argentine magician after a virtuoso display against Espanyol

Lionel Messi proved his ability to excite has no foreseeable expiry date by producing a virtuoso display as Barcelona thrashed Espanyol 4-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Teammates and opponents were left spellbound by his magic as the five-time World Player of the Year produced two exhilarating solo runs in the space of a minute in the second half which lead to Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba scoring.

The 29-year-old capped his stunning display with a deserved goal in the 89th minute.

"In the second half, we saw the most spectacular version of our attacking players, particularly Messi, and we should never stop praising him," said Barca coach Luis Enrique.

"It looks routine, but we should not get used to it because it's something unique."

Espanyol coach Quique Sanchez Flores was in awe of Messi after the game.

"Messi is capable of constantly changing every game he plays in, he's the only player you could imagine scoring a hat-trick in every game," said Flores, who approached the forward after the game.

"I congratulated him for his humility, he never complains, he gets kicked, he gets thrown to the floor, it's amazing."

VIDEO: The magic begins at .30secs

Barca are second on 34 points, three behind Real Madrid who have a game in hand due to their participation in the Club World Cup which they lifted after a 4-2 extra-time victory over Kashima Antlers.

Espanyol have not beaten Barcelona since 2009 although they went into the game on the back of a nine-game unbeaten run in the league, conceding only once in their last six.

But their positive form counted for little against a Barca side who have rediscovered their form after a slump last month.

The hosts made their intentions clear when Suarez burst through the middle and worked the ball to Neymar, only for Messi to send the final pass whistling past the near post.

GUILTY SUAREZ

The 18th-minute opener came from a lightning-quick break which began with a sliding tackle from Javier Mascherano on compatriot Pablo Piatti and Andres Iniesta produced a sumptuous long ball for Suarez to knock into the far corner.

In the second half, Messi seized a loose ball and skipped past five defenders before his shot was spilled by substitute goalkeeper Roberto and Suarez gobbled up the rebound to score again.

Messi produced another breathtaking run into the box a minute later, worming his way through four defenders and laying the ball off for Alba to ram past Roberto.

David Lopez briefly silenced a jubilant Nou Camp with a well-worked goal on the counter, but Messi got the festivities started again with a deserved goal of his own in the 89th minute.

Suarez said that he felt guilty about scoring the second, which was created by Messi's mesmeric run past five defenders.

"I would have preferred for him to have completed his amazing move rather than me scoring it, it was like a PlayStation move," he said.

"Messi is a unique player." - WIRE SERVICES

Footballla ligabarcelona