Messi scores twice from free kicks in Barca win vs Espanyol

MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi scored twice from free kicks in a league match for the first time in his career on Saturday, leading Barcelona to a 4-0 rout of Espanyol in the Spanish league.

Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez also scored in the Catalan derby for Barcelona, which opened a three-point lead over Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. Sevilla drew 1-1 at Valencia earlier Saturday, while Atletico defeated Alaves 3-0 at home.

Fifth-placed Real Madrid visits last-place Huesca on Sunday, only a few hours before River Plate and Boca Juniors meet in the Copa Libertadores final at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

The perfectly struck set-piece goals capped another brilliant performance by Messi, who got past defenders with ease and effortlessly put his teammates in a position to score.

The first free kick came in the 17th minute from about 25 meters (yards) away. Messi curled a left-footed shot into the top corner, with the ball turning away from the outstretched arm of Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

The second came in the 65th, with the ball a bit further back and from a slightly different angle. Messi’s shot was struck just as perfectly at the first one, curling over the wall and into the top corner. This time, Lopez didn’t even get close to making a save.

Messi had also set up Dembele’s goal in the 26th, sending a well-placed throughball to the French forward. Dembele got rid of a defender with a nice cut-back move before sending a high shot into the far corner.

Dembele gave the assist for Suarez’s goal just before halftime, with the Uruguayan’s shot from a tough angle finding the net after going through the legs of Lopez.

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