Football

Girona lament waking up for the Barcelona beast

Barcelona attackers Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez combined to devastating effect to hammer Girona 6-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time) as they set a club record of 32 games unbeaten in the league.

Visiting striker Portu gave Girona a surprise lead in the third minute of their first La Liga game at the Nou Camp.

However, Suarez quickly levelled down the other end, while two goals from Messi and another from the Uruguayan saw Barca march into a 4-1 lead at half-time.

Barca's £105 million (S$193.3m) record signing Coutinho had set up Suarez's second goal and then struck for the first time in La Liga with a spectacular long-distance shot from well outside of the area in the 66th minute.

Suarez completed his hat-trick in the 76th, tapping in a cut-back from Ousmane Dembele.

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

"It was a resounding victory. We were very good and we were able to find a lot of space," said Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets.

"In the end, it was a question of time."

Valverde has favoured a 4-4-2 formation for most of the season. But, after his side had struggled to a 1-1 draw at Chelsea in the Champions League last Tuesday, the coach opted for an ultra-attacking 4-3-3 against Girona, with Dembele often joining the South American trio to create a ruthless four-man attack.

Girona coach Pablo Machin lamented: "It was a tough night. Our tactics worked well in the third minute but then we woke up the beast.

"We were nervous from the start and they were very sharp.

"Messi is always the one who makes the difference and he was especially good tonight."

A few hours earlier, Real Madrid's "BBC" strike force returned with a vengeance as 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, 14 ahead of third-placed Real.

Second-placed Atletico Madrid could narrow their points gap on Barca to seven if they beat Sevilla away this morning. - REUTERS

Football