Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Barcelona came from behind to set a club record of 32 games unbeaten, thrashing Catalan neighbours Girona 6-1 at the Nou Camp on Saturday night.
The visitors took a shock early lead as Cristian Portu pounced on a mistake by Samuel Umtiti to find the net (3), but Suarez equalised two minutes later with a composed finish from Lionel Messi’s through ball.
Suarez then turned provider for Messi to give Ernesto Valverde’s side the lead (30), and the Argentine stretched Barcelona’s advantage with a sublime free-kick (36) underneath the Girona wall.
There was still time for Suarez to convert Philippe Coutinho’s cross to make it four prior to the break (44), and the former Liverpool midfielder then got in on the act, scoring a sensational fifth (66) before Suarez completed the rout, tapping in from Ousmane Dembele’s cross (76).
Barcelona: Ter Stegen (7), Semedo (7), Pique (6), Umtiti (6), Alba (6), Rakitic (7), Busquets (7), Coutinho (8), Dembele (7), Suarez (9), Messi (8).
Subs: Paulinho (6), Roberto (6).
Girona: Bounou (7), Ramalho (5), Bernardo (6), Juanpe (5), Maffeo (6), Aday (6), Pere Pons (6), Granell (6), Borja Garcia (5), Portu (6), Lozano (6).
Subs: Douglas Luiz (6), Planas (6), Aleix Garcia (7).
Man of the match: Luis Suarez
Girona, the last Catalan province to produce a top-flight team, took a shock lead on their first competitive visit to the Nou Camp as a mix-up between Umtiti and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen allowed Portu to pounce and score from an acute angle via the post.
But less than two minutes later, Barcelona responded as Messi slid in Suarez who fired underneath Yassine Bounou from the left of the penalty area.
Just shy of the half-hour mark, Suarez repaid the favour as he set up Messi to cut inside Jonas Ramalho and beat Bounou with a hard left-footed strike to complete the turnaround.
Barcelona made three changes; Sergi Roberto made way for Nelson Semedo, while Paulinho and Andres Iniesta were replaced by Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele. Girona made three changes as Pere Pons, Pablo Maffeo and Anthony Lozano replaced Cristhian Stuani, Aleix Garcia and John Mojica.
The Argentine doubled his tally for the night with a cheeky free-kick underneath the Girona wall on the edge of the box seven minutes later and he was involved once more in Barcelona’s fourth, playing in Coutinho who unselfishly crossed for Suarez to tap in from close range.
In a far less eventful second half, it took until the 66th minute for Barcelona to stretch their lead as Coutinho produced a moment of magic, cutting in from the left to bend a sensational trademark strike in off the post from 25 yards out.
Suarez completed the scoring with a simple tap-in from Dembele’s cross 10 minutes later with Barcelona now setting their sights on eclipsing Real Sociedad’s all-time Spanish record unbeaten run of 38 games achieved between April 1979 and May 1980.
Valverde will have been highly satisfied with his team’s performance but ahead of games next month against Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, he will have been concerned by Gerard Pique and Nelson Semedo both being forced off with injuries with the latter holding his hamstring as he departed.
Man of the match: Luis Suarez
Suarez began the season slowly, but he is now hot on the tail of team-mate Messi in the race for this season’s Pichichi after reaching 20 league goals for the season.
The Uruguayan still trails Messi by two after he helped himself to a first-half brace, but Suarez ensured he took home the match ball with three well-taken strikes in a comfortable outing, combining well with Dembele and Coutinho throughout.
Barcelona are back in La Liga next Thursday as they travel to face struggling Las Palmas. Girona will look to respond to the heavy loss two days earlier at home to Celta Vigo.