Luis Suárez fired four goals to put Barcelona’s crumbling La Liga title challenge firmly back on track with a 8-0 humbling of Deportivo La Coruña at the Riazor on Wednesday.
Barcelona entered the game under huge pressure after three straight league defeats saw their seemingly unassailable nine-point lead atop La Liga wiped away. But Suárez helped ease the nerves in style with two goals in each half to take his season’s tally to 49 goals in just 48 outings. Completing a night to remember for the Uruguayan, he also got a hat-trick of assists, for Ivan Rakitic, Lionel Messi and Neymar, while Marc Bartra added to the rout with a lone strike.
Although they will have to wait until later in the day to see if they can put daylight between themselves and Atlético and Real Madrid, this victory and the emphatic manner of it will do plenty to alleviate the talk of crisis that had been reverberating around the Camp Nou in recent days.
Along with their stunning collapse in the league, Luis Enrique’s side had crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Atlético Madrid. And with Atlético having moved level on points in the league and Real Madrid to within a single point, Barcelona knew they had no more margin for error if they were to avoid their season turning from a potentially history-making back-to-back treble into disastrous failure.
It had been Barcelona’s prolific front three that had fired the team to such success over the past 15 months, and it has been their decline over recent games that had unsurprisingly become the focus of attention. Suárez, Messi and Neymar had scored just three times in their last five outings—a real drought by their remarkably high standards.
In the club’s most recent defeat, against Valencia on Sunday, Barcelona had dominated and gotten into plenty of dangerous positions, but lacked their usual clinical touch. Yet that decisiveness in the final third returned to resounding effect in La Coruña.
It took just 11 minutes for the opening goal to arrive. Deportivo’s defenders failed to cut out Rakitic’s in-swinging corner and were then left furious as Suárez escaped punishment for a push on Sidnei, allowing him to volley home from just three yards out.
Still, it was clear that Barcelona had not returned to their all-conquering best. Twice in the following minutes, Deportivo midfielder Celso Borges found himself with a clear sight of goal six yards out, but on both occasions he badly fluffed his lines.
When Barcelona found Deportivo’s defense equally accommodating at the other end, they were not nearly so wasteful. Midway through the first half, the visitors were two goals to the good, thanks to Messi’s sublime touch that found Suárez behind the Deportivo defense to calmly provide the finish.
Suárez should have had his hat-trick rather quicker than he eventually did, but, as has become something of a habit for the former Liverpool man, he missed the simplest of his chances when getting his feet tangled up from just a couple of yards out. It was, though, to be the only blemish on an outstanding performance.
Two minutes into the second half, he combined with Neymar on the left before chipping the ball across the box for Rakitic to expertly volley into the net. And shortly after Suárez completed his sixth hat-trick of the season, again feeding onto Messi’s pass and beating the increasingly beleaguered Deportivo goalkeeper Manu. His tally was completed in the 64th minute when Neymar squared the ball and, while his first effort was blocked, Suárez got the benefit of the ball coming straight back to him off a defender to make no mistake at the second time of asking.
Still, Deportivo’s punishment was far from over. Suárez turned provider for Messi to finish into an unguarded net, before Bartra became surely the happiest goalscorer of the evening. In a rare start, Bartra surged forward out of his center-back position and past a host of dispirited Deportivo defenders to get his second goal of the season. Nine minutes from the end the rout was finally ended when Barcelona’s front three fittingly combined and Neymar arrived at the back post to end his five-match scoreless streak and restore business as usual for the Catalans.