Held scoreless for most of the first half, Barcelona staged a comeback behind Lionel Messi’s hat trick and silenced Espanyol with a 5-1 victory Sunday at Nou Camp.

It was the 21st hat trick in Messi’s career, and the three points allows the Catalans to apply more pressure to first-place Real Madrid on La Liga table. Los Periquitos remain in 12th place, but missed an opportunity after silencing Alaves in the Copa del Rey earlier in the week.

Espanyol held a 1-0 lead after Sergio Garcia’s goal in the 13th minute, and Barcelona struggled to muster any sort of attack until Messi opened things in the closing minutes of the first half.

The Argentine first struck outside the penalty area, trickling a left-footed strike through a sea of Espanyol defenders to the bottom left corner of the net.

Five minutes into the second half, Luis Suarez flicked a cross from the left wing to midfield, where Messi found some space with one touch and fired away past keeper Francisco Casilla for the 2-1 lead.

Gerard Pique and Pedro would help Messi pile on the goals with scores in the 53rd and 77th minute, respectively.  Pique’s was a header to the bottom left corner of the net, following a clever cross from Ivan Rakitic, and Pedro caught Espanyol’s back line asleep when he accepted Jordi Alba’s deep cross from midfield and coasted to the net unmarked.

In the 81st minute, Messi finished off his performance by working a give-and-go with Pedro from the right wing to the middle of the box.

Barcelona vs Espanyol (5-1) Full Highlights 07... by rubin7190