Barcelona - Luis Suarez celebrated his bumper new five-year
Barcelona deal in style with a double as the champions defeated Espanyol 4-1 in
the Catalan derby to move to within three points of La Liga leaders Real
However, it was Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi's skills
that stole the show as Barca took advantage of Real's duties in winning the
Club World Cup earlier on Sunday to cut the gap at the top ahead of La Liga's
three-week winter break.
Iniesta teed up Suarez for an early opener before both
Iniesta and Messi showed sublime touches for the second eventually finished off
Messi created Barca's third as well for Jordi Alba before
David Lopez pulled a goal back for Espanyol as their 10-game unbeaten run came
to an end.
The five-time World Player of the Year wasn't to be denied,
though, as Messi got the goal his performance deserved a minute from time.
"Leo's move (for the second goal) is a PlayStation move
from a unique player that only he can do," Suarez told Spanish TV Station
Barca's upturn in form in recent weeks has coincided with
the return of veteran playmaker Iniesta from a six-week injury layoff and the
Spanish international was to the fore as the hosts dominated throughout.
"We've enjoyed watching players in their natural
habitat doing incredible, unpredictable things and making us enjoy this
marvellous sport," added Barca boss Luis Enrique.
Iniesta sparked a sweeping counter-attack on eight minutes
involving all three of Barca's star-studded frontline as he fed Suarez, who
spun away from the Espanyol defence, before picking out Neymar and the
Brazilian's low cross was fired inches wide by Messi.
Barca had to wait just 10 minutes more to open the scoring
as another sumptuous Iniesta pass was expertly controlled by Suarez and he bore
down on goal before slotting into the far corner.
For all their dominance in possession, the champions had to
wait till the start of the second period to enjoy more clear chances as Messi
curled wide from the edge of the box before he teed up Suarez with a brilliant
defence splitting pass.
This time the Uruguayan was denied by Diego Lopez, but at a
cost as the Espanyol 'keeper injured his knee in clashing with Suarez and had
to be replaced by Roberto.
Suarez moved level with Messi as La Liga's top scorer with
12 with Barca's second, but once again the credit should go to Iniesta and
Messi as they dribbled past a combined seven Espanyol defenders before Messi's
shot was parried by Roberto and Suarez snaffled up the rebound.
Seconds later Messi tore the Espanyol defence apart once
more to leave Jordi Alba free to drill the ball into the far corner.
Espanyol did muster a reply to salvage some pride with their
first shot on target as Gerard Moreno headed into Lopez's path, who had stormed
forward from centre-back to find the top corner.
However, a virtuoso display from Messi got the finale it
deserved as he and Suarez exchanged a one-two before the Argentine prodded
between Roberto's legs.