It was one of those special nights for Lionel Messi, filled with beautiful goals, pinpoint assists and plenty of praise from teammates and opponents.
Messi scored two goals and set up two more as Barcelona extended its winning streak and regained the Spanish league lead by comfortably defeating Valladolid 5-1 on Tuesday.
“We can only applaud and enjoy,” Valladolid captain Michel Herrero said.
Messi scored a goal in each half, including his 50th from a free kick, as Barcelona won its seventh straight game in all competitions since the Argentina star returned to the starting lineup after a long injury layoff.
“I don’t know what else to say,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We always know he will do something special. His talent can’t be compared to anything.”
Clement Lenglet, Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez also scored at the Camp Nou Stadium to give Barcelona a two-point lead over Granada, which visits Getafe on Thursday. Atletico Madrid, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Alaves on Tuesday, also stayed two points off the lead.
Barcelona has a game in hand because the “clasico” against Real Madrid last weekend was postponed until December because of a separatist rally held in the Catalan capital.
Barcelona struggled without Messi but has won all of its matches since he returned as a starter following a right calf injury he picked up in the preseason. He has scored five goals in Barcelona’s last four matches.
“When Messi is on a day like this, the whole team feels it and everything becomes easier,” Vidal said. “He is from another planet.”
Messi’s first goal was a spectacular curling free kick shot into the top corner in the 34th minute, and his second came with a shot from inside the area after he beautifully controlled a long pass by Ivan Rakitic in the 75th.
The free kick goal was Messi’s 44th with Barcelona, adding to the six he scored with Argentina’s national team.
Lenglet opened the scoring two minutes into the match and Kiko Olivas equalized for Valladolid in the 15th before Vidal put the hosts ahead again in the 29th. Suarez netted Barcelona’s final goal after a perfect through pass by Messi in the 77th. Messi also set up Vidal’s goal with a great pass over Valladolid defenders.
Messi missed out on a hat trick when his close-range shot in stoppage time went wide.
It was the 11th win for Barcelona in 12 league matches against Valladolid, which stayed ninth in the 20-team standings.
Valverde started the match with 16-year-old Ansu Fati in place of Antoine Griezmann. The French forward entered the game in the second half.
ATLETICO WINLESS AGAIN
Atletico Madrid had to settle for another draw after conceding a late equalizer at Alaves.
It was the fourth draw in the last five league matches for Atletico, which could drop to sixth place after the other matches are played.
Substitute striker Alvaro Morata put Atletico ahead from inside the area in the 70th minute, but Lucas Perez equalized in the 83rd with a beautiful long-range shot after going past two defenders. It was the fifth consecutive match with a goal for Perez.
“I went for the top corner and luckily it went in,” he said.
Morata has scored in three straight games, always coming off the bench.
Atletico had drawn three straight in the league before a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at home on Saturday.
“We have to forget this match and keep working,” Atletico midfielder Thomas Partey said.
The result extended Atletico’s unbeaten streak against Alaves to nine league matches.