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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 April 2019

'Extraordinary' Lionel Messi leads Barcelona to rout of Espanyol - in pictures

Argentine forward scored two stunning free-kicks in the 4-0 win in the Catalan derby

Ernesto Valverde heaped praise on "extraordinary" Lionel Messi after the Argentine scored twice in the 4-0 Primera Liga win over Catalan rivals Espanyol on Saturday.

Messi curled home two sensational free-kicks and set up another goal as he and his teammates romped to victory at the RCDE Stadium and made sure Barca retain their two-point lead atop the Primera Liga table.

Atleti and Sevilla had moved level on 28 points with Barca on Saturday after Diego Simeone's side defeated Alaves 3-0 and the Andalusians drew 1-1 at Valencia.

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However, Messi made sure that Valverde's team kept their place at the top of the pile with a mesmerising display alongside front-three partners Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele that left Espanyol dead and buried by half-time.

"He is extraordinary," said Valverde. "The free-kicks, the chances on goal that he creates, what he brings us and what he take from the opponent.

"It is still very early, La Liga is very tight, but the idea is to be solid away from home, knowing that winning is very difficult against every team."

Messi began the rout in the 17th minute with a perfectly placed free-kick that arched past Diego Lopez, and followed that up by keeping possession under intense pressure before providing the pass for Dembele from which the French attacker curled in a fine second.

It was then Dembele's turn to become provider a minute before the break, slipping in a super through ball that Suarez somehow took on and squeezed home from near the byline.

Messi capped a dominant team and individual display with his second free-kick of the night, which this time whipped past Lopez which such venom the Spanish goalkeeper could barely move towards it.

Updated: December 9, 2018 09:55 AM

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