Madrid, Jan 19: Barcelona swept to an overwhelming 4-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna in Riazor stadium here Sunday, led to victory by an unstoppable and brilliant Lionel Messi, who found the twine three times.
Although there has been speculation that the Argentine captain's relationship with coach Luis Enrique has imploded, he didn't let talk of that kind distract him during his magnificent outing, heading in a decisive shot on Ivan Rakitic's cross in the 11th minute to start the score-fest.
Then, he was in the right place at the right time again in the 33rd minute taking a pass from Neymar and finessing in a beautiful shot to make it 2-0, and then notching his 30th hat trick for Barca on an inside cut and left-footed shot into the far corner in the 62nd minute, after which Coruna's Sidnei knocked in an own-goal in the 83rd minute for the final result.
Although his rotation policy has been much criticised of late, Enrique started the same player combination that beat Atletico Madrid 3-1 at home last week, a match in which Messi had shone brightly, and he was rewarded with another fabulous display of skill.
"He has been playing at a phenomenal level the whole season," Enrique said of Messi at a Sunday press conference. "He has not fallen off at any moment."
Only four yellow cards were shown during the match, two to each side.
Real Madrid are now just a game up on Barca with 45 points at the La Liga summit at the season's halfway point and Atletico Madrid is in third place with 41.