Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez star for Barcelona in win over Celta
A night that started off as a difficult one for Barcelona ended in a festival of Catalan goals, thanks to two astonishing showings from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, against Celta in a 6-1 final.
Both players were already on the scoresheet in the 81st minute when they decided to take things a step further, producing what will surely go down as one of the great Barca moments. After lining up a penalty kick with the score at 3-1, Messi chose not to shoot and instead knocked the ball sideways for Suarez, who was quick off the mark to finish. It was a perfect homage to Camp Nou legend Johan Cruyff, who famously took part in a similar move during his playing days.
That moment encapsulated the impossibility of containing the two forwards, their goals and assists undoing plenty of good work from Eduardo Berizzo's away team, which had held Barcelona at 1-1 for a period following a John Guidetti penalty. With goalkeeper Claudio Bravo imperious between the sticks, Celta could never properly capitalise on their best periods, and as is so often the case, Barca's forwards punished their failure to finish.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Claudio Bravo, 8 -- Without the Chilean's key saves, Barca would have trailed in the first half. Bravo made some particularly impressive stops against Carles Planas and Claudio Beauvue. Bravo managed to dive the right way for Guidetti's spot kick, but the power of the shot meant he couldn't get there on time, and once Barca were back in front in the second half, his excellent response to a Daniel Wass shot kept them in the lead.
DF Dani Alves, 3 -- The veteran was far too passive when defending and proved to be imprecise in his passing. Deservedly taken off for Aleix Vidal with an hour played, Alves will soon lose his starting spot if he isn't careful.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 -- Given a difficult first hour by Guidetti, who regularly pulled him around the park and even left him on the ground on one occasion. Pique improved somewhat later in the game after manager Luis Enrique's substitutions.
DF Javier Mascherano, 5 -- Celta's explosive style meant that Barca's quickest centre-back El Jefecito needed to have a good game to stop his side from suffering, but for the most part, he lacked accuracy. The Argentinean was at least useful on the ball, keeping the away team guessing with some threatening long passing, including one raking ball that would have been an assist if Neymar was an inch quicker.
DF Jordi Alba, 5 -- Much like the rest of Barca's defence, it was an evening of contrasts for the Catalan, who brought down Guidetti for a costly penalty in the 38th minute after originally beating the Swede to the ball. Alba gradually improved as his team's midfield gained more control.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Much of Celta's strategy focused on keeping the midfielder quiet, which limited his influence in the opening 20 minutes. But as he started to sniff out more space, he eased Barcelona's struggles. Off the ball, he was invaluable as usual, regularly proving to be a step ahead of opponents.
MF Sergi Roberto, 4 -- Showed some good passing and had a one-touch play that troubled Celta early on, but a big mistake allowed the Galicians to break in numbers, and it was downhill from there. As the error count grew, Luis Enrique bit the bullet, calling for Ivan Rakitic to replace Roberto on the hour mark.
MF Andres Iniesta, 7 -- The captain made a habit of winning the ball cleanly in the attacking third, then releasing Barca's forwards effectively, and he was equally useful when dropping back closer to his own area to defend. Taken off to applause in the 77th minute after a hard shift.
FW Lionel Messi, 10 -- Scored the opener from a free kick, created Barca's second with an ingenious dink, then did most of the work for their third by wriggling away from challenges and threading a precise pass to Neymar through the Celta defence. Incredibly, the No. 10 wasn't finished there, as he went on to nutmeg Jonny to win the penalty that led to the home team's fourth. The way he took it was equally impressive; the nudge horizontally into finisher Suarez's path was a moment of sheer genius.
FW Luis Suarez, 10 -- Another week, another perfect display. The Uruguayan's bursts into space were a problem for Celta, even when the home team weren't playing well. When Barca were playing well, he helped them capitalise with lethal finishing. Scored his first goal by thumping away a Messi chip in his stride, dispatched his second by arriving with perfect timing to see Neymar's attempt over the line, then completed a hat trick with the Cruyff-homage penalty. He even found time to deliver assists for Rakitic and Neymar. Flawless.
FW Neymar, 8 -- Surprisingly imprecise in the first half, the Brazilian more than made up for it in the second, riding challenges, creating chances and flicking the ball over a defender's head, much to the Camp Nou's delight. His merciless dribble around Sergio left Suarez to tap into an empty net for Barca's third goal, and then a great piece of control and finish of his own ended the home team's scoring for the night.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- The Croatian's introduction coincided with Barcelona finally taking hold of the game; his tactical discipline was easy to miss but important for the team. Afforded a rare moment in the spotlight when he lifted the ball over Sergio to score the Blaugrana's fifth.
DF Aleix Vidal, 6 -- The Catalan offered much more incisive running than Alves, despite picking up a knock relatively early into his time on the pitch. Vidal was on hand to provide some necessary defensive cover at the other end, too.
MF Arda Turan, NR -- Made a late cameo to give Iniesta a rest after the captain ran his socks off.
Lee Roden is a European football writer based in Barcelona. Follow him on Twitter: @LeeRoden89.