Messi, Suarez combine for 5 goals as Barca beats Girona 6-1
By JOSEPH WILSON
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi gave another masterful performance and Luis Suarez scored a hat trick to lead Barcelona to a new club record after routing Girona 6-1 in the Spanish league on Saturday.
Messi took his competition-leading tally to 22 goals as Barcelona increased its lead of the Spanish league to 10 points before second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.
Barcelona broke its club milestone for longest unbeaten run in La Liga that had stood at 31 games since the 2010-11 season under former coach Pep Guardiola. The win over Girona was Barcelona's 32nd league game without a loss after going undefeated through all 25 rounds this season under Ernesto Valverde plus the last seven from the last campaign under Luis Enrique.
Real Sociedad set the league record of 38 games without a loss in 1980.
After setting up the first of Suarez's goals, Messi danced around two defenders to give Barcelona the lead on the half-hour mark.
He added another goal six minutes later with a superbly struck free kick that he sent low under the players in the defensive barrier when they jumped, anticipating he would try to shoot over them.
"When you think you have seen everything he goes and surprises you with a goal like that from the free kick," Valverde said about Messi. "Messi feels a great responsibility for the team and he took it on during the early part of the game. He makes the difficult look easy."
Philippe Coutinho had his moment to shine after Suarez's second goal when he curled home a brilliant strike from outside the area to make it 5-1 in the 66th. Suarez completed his treble 10 minutes later when he tapped in a cross by Ousmane Dembele.
Suarez, who also hit the post early in the second half, netted his 18th, 19th and 20th goals in the league, a total surpassed by only Messi.
Cristian "Portu" Portuguese struck early for Girona when he caught Samuel Umtiti being far too complacent when he raced in from behind to reach a ball near Barcelona's box. Portu's strike from an angle hit both posts before settling into the net.
Barcelona right back Nelson Semedo injured his left leg late in the match. How long he might be sidelined was yet to be determined.
Girona fell into ninth place. The Catalan club has impressed in its debut season in the first division, and lost only once in the six games prior to Saturday.
Updated February 24, 2018