Lionel Messi scored two direct free-kicks as Barcelona won the Catalan derby at Espanyol 4-0 on Saturday.
It was the first time Messi had scored two direct free-kicks in La Liga. Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele also scored as Barcelona went three points clear at the top of La Liga.
“Leo unblocks any game,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde of his talisman, who had broken the deadlock on 17 minutes with a free-kick after he had been brought down by Marc Roca.
Messi then set up Dembele on 26 minutes and Dembele assisted Luis Suarez for the third goal just before half time.
Messi scored his second direct free-kick on 65 minutes to make it 4-0. Asked if he thought Messi could have ended up with a hat-trick of free-kicks Valverde said: “If anyone is capable of doing it then it’s him.”
Espanyol thought they had narrowed the margin in the second half but Oscar Duarte’s goal was ruled out for offside by VAR.
Espanyol coach Rubi said: “It’s very hard to stop Messi score free-kicks. He was the difference today.”
Asked if he tried to stop his side giving away free-kicks on the edge of the area he said: “No, because if you don’t make the challenges then they have a free pass into your area.”
Earlier Atletico Madrid beat Alaves 3-0 at the Metropolitano on Saturday.
Sevilla later drew with Valencia meaning they joined Atletico on 28 points in second and third behind Barcelona.
Atletico's Nicola Kalinic broke the deadlock on 25 minutes from Arias’ cross, scoring his first league goal for the club.
Alaves’ substitute Borja Baston had chances to get his team back in the game after the break but the visitors could not beat Jan Oblak.
And on 82 minutes Antoine Griezmann raced clear to make it 2-0. Rodrigo Hernandez scored the third from close range with three minutes remaining.
"The scoreline flattered us a bit, Alaves played very well," said Atletico defender Jose Gimenez.
It then seemed Sevilla would go temporarily clear at the top with a win over Valencia. Pablo Sarabia put them ahead on 55 minutes turning in on Wissam Ben Yedder's shot.
But Mouctar Diakhaby headed in Dani Parejo's free-kick on 92 minutes to draw Valencia level.
Sarabia reflected on the last attack costing his team two points. The scorer of Sevilla’s goal said: "We were focused except in the very last piece of play."