Messi scores 2 as Barca routs Liga newcomer Leganes

BARCELONA: Barcelona's unstoppable trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all scored to make short work of newly promoted Leganes in the Spanish league on Saturday.

The three stars combined repeatedly in the first half to set the defending champions on their way to a 5-1 win in Barcelona's first ever visit to Leganes, a small club from southern Madrid playing its maiden campaign in the top tier.

Messi scored twice, and hit the post, giving the Argentina star five goals in two matches during a five-day span.

Last weekend, Barcelona left Messi and Suarez on the bench against Alaves, only to see the promoted side snatch a rare 2-1 win at Camp Nou.

Lesson learned.

Coach Luis Enrique went with Messi and Suarez from the start on Saturday. The two linked up with striker partner Neymar to completely outclass their hosts.

Playing just its fourth match in the top flight in its 88-year history, Leganes opted to be daring when faced by the five-time European champion.

Leganes had reason to trust coach Asier Garitano, who had led it up from the third division to the first in only three years. The team started the season with a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo and a 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid.

Its high defensive line, however, only left Barcelona's big three with plenty of room to romp.

The easy win was a continuation of Barcelona's dominant week after thrashing Celtic 7-0. Messi scored three times against the Scottish visitors and helped set a club record for its biggest win in the Champions League.

Messi followed up on his latest hat trick with a goal in the 15th minute, using his left boot to slot in Suarez's pass.

The two linked up again in the 31st when left all alone against two back-tracking defenders. Messi took both on, drew out goalkeeper Jon Serantes, and passed for Suarez to push the ball home.

Leganes winger Darwin Machis almost pulled one back after dribbling past Javier Mascherano, but his two shots were blocked by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Samuel Umtiti.

Neymar made it 3-0 a minute before halftime when Messi broke the off-side trap with a pass that left Suarez with 30 yards (meters) of open space before he laid the ball off to the Brazil striker.

Messi got his brace from the penalty spot in the 55th after Neymar was fouled on the break by Unai Bustinza.

Rafina got Barcelona's fifth from long distance with a left-footed strike that streaked inside the goalframe.

Gabriel Appelt finally gave some joy to the 10,000 blue-and-white clad fans packing Butarque Stadium when he scored from a free kick with 10 minutes remaining.

"You make even the smallest little mistake and they punish you," Appelt said about Barcelona's superiority.

Leganes joined Real Madrid and Atletico as the third team from the Spanish capital in the top division, following the relegation of Getafe and Rayo Vallecano last season.

Later on Saturday, Atletico hosts Sporting Gijon, Las Palmas welcomes Malaga and Sevilla is at Eibar.