Messi's set-piece magnificence, De Jong's efficiency see Barcelona past Celta Vigo
BARCELONA -- Lionel Messi scored his 34th La Liga hat trick as Barcelona got back to winning ways with a 4-1 win over struggling Celta Vigo.
Barca's talisman opened the scoring from the penalty spot but then gave away the free kick from which Lucas Olaza levelled the scores. In response, Messi not only matched the Celta defender, but raised him another with dead-ball masterpieces either side of half-time.
Barca desperately needed three points to go into the international break after poor performances against Levante and Slavia Prague in the last week. In the end, they got them fairly comfortably and return to the top of La Liga, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference.
Messi has eight goals in six league starts, four of them from free kicks. He has scored 15 in La Liga over the past three seasons, which is more than any other team -- not player -- in Europe's top five leagues. Madrid, for context, have scored three.
Celta started better and even responded after the home side edged in front. Barca, meanwhile, were reliant on Messi's set-piece wizardry; until Busquets' strike, they were on course for a third successive game without a goal from open play.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Ernesto Valverde made five changes from the goalless draw against Slavia in midweek, but there was little difference in terms of how Barca played. They improved once Busquets came on in midfield, having been overrun early on.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- Olaza's free kick was good, but did not go right in the corner. Other than that concession, Ter Stegen saved everything thrown at him, although most of his work was fairly straightforward.
DF Nelson Semedo, NR -- Forced off early in the first half with a calf problem.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- The early stages suggested he would be in for a difficult evening, but things calmed down once Barca got a grip on the game.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 6 -- Came into the side to make his 100th appearance for the club and tried to move the ball forward quickly, but still looks short of the form he showed before his knee injury.
DF Junior Firpo, 7 -- With Jordi Alba injured, he returned for the first time since Sept. 28 and made his case for more minutes with a decent display, including the cross that was handled for Barcelona's penalty.
MF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Started in midfield but returned to right-back when Semedo went off. Got booked so will miss the Leganes game after the international break.
MF Frenkie de Jong, 8 -- It took him a few weeks to adjust to his changing role in Barcelona's midfield, but he now looks capable of dropping into any one of the three central roles blindfolded. Brilliant again here: passing, decision making, twisting and turning with the ball.
MF Arthur Melo, 7 -- Looked like he had something to prove after being left out of the squad against Slavia. He drove forward with intent and almost set up a couple of goals.
FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- Aside from his three goals, he was not at his best in open play. A couple of rare sloppy touches caught Camp Nou by surprise and he was at fault for the Celta goal, but there was that hat trick that he scored...
FW Antoine Griezmann, 6 -- Handed a more central role with Luis Suarez only fit enough for the bench, Griezmann worked hard but the ball rarely made its way to him. And just when he started to get into the game, seeing a rare chance saved by Ruben Blanco, he was taken off.
FW Ansu Fati, 6 -- Played the first half before being replaced by Dembele. Fati Looks short of the form with which he burst onto the scene in August.
DF Sergio Busquets, 7 -- Calmed things down when he came on before becoming an unlikely scorer of the game's final goal.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 7 -- A lively 45 minutes, full of pace and tricks. Messi was inches away from converting a fine Dembele cross.
FW Luis Suarez, NR -- Surprisingly came on with Barca coasting, despite having just returned from injury.