Barcelona: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde admitted on Saturday that Lionel Messi never fails to surprise him as the Argentine maestro scored twice, including a cheeky free-kick, in the 6-1 comeback win over Girona.
The La Liga leaders overcame going a goal down to cruise to a victory which gave them a 10-point advantage at the top with a Luis Suarez hat-trick and debut league goal for Philippe Coutinho ensuring the three points.
“It’s difficult to get used to, especially because we’re talking about a player about whom we say we’ve seen it all, but Messi always surprises you,” said Valverde.
Messi, who now has 30 goals in all competitions this season, had Valverde reaching for the superlatives for his free-kick which bamboozled Girona when he coaxed the ball along the floor instead of over the top and into the net.
“We all expected to see how he would get it over the wall but he hits it under. You see it and you think it’s easy. Leo just makes it look easy, but it’s not that easy,” said the coach.
The match was also special for Messi from a personal point of view as it was the first since the death of his maternal grandfather at home in Rosario in Argentina.
Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema added goals as Real Madrid beat Alaves 4-0. Benzema set up both Ronaldo’s opener and a quick second goal by Bale to put the result beyond doubt seconds after halftime.
Benzema used a subtle touch with the back of his heel to leave Ronaldo in position to drill the hosts’ first goal into the net in the 44th minute.
The French striker helped to double the lead less than 30 seconds into the second half after he stole possession from Alexis Ruano, catching Alaves defending a four-on-two attack. Benzema laid off for Bale to fire past goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco.
Ronaldo netted his second goal in the 61st when he used one touch of his right boot to fire Lucas Vazquez’s pass under Pacheco.
Benzema converted a penalty in the 89th after Bale was fouled by Victor Larguardia in the area.
Bale played in a new position for Real, as a left-side midfielder as opposed to his usual spot as a winger on the right.
Besides scoring and generating a penalty, the Wales international went close to a second goal in the 54th when he curled a long strike that grazed the top of the bar.
“I wanted to see him in that position and now we see how we play in the upcoming games,” coach Zinedine Zidane said. “Playing with a 4-4-2 with Bale on the left worked well because Alexis [Ruano] couldn’t join in attack. Then, when we had the ball, he had to move and not stay on the left and he did that well. Bale, Cristiano, Karim, Lucas, everyone played well as a group.”
Ronaldo’s goals were his 27th and 28th of the season in all competitions and took his tally in La Liga to 14.