Trent Alexander-Arnold conceded he feared a VAR intervention for handball prior to Liverpool's opener in their crucial 3-1 over Manchester City at Anfield.

City's players and manager Pep Guardiola were left seething when referee Michael Oliver did not award a penalty against the Reds full-back, who appeared to handle in the area, early in the blockbuster contest at Anfield.

Fabinho rifled Liverpool into a sixth-minute lead shortly after, before Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane goals took the game away from City, who earned a consolation through Bernardo Silva.

Asked by Sky Sports if he feared the worse, Alexander-Arnold replied: "Obviously, yeah you know there's VAR, I think it has hit me arm, but I think it's hit Bernardo Silva's first. 

"It's one of those you have to carry on playing, we went down the other end and punished them. They complained but you have to keep on playing."

Liverpool's win sees them head into the international break with an eight-point lead at the top of the table, while the gap of nine to champions City is potentially more significant.

The Reds earned 97 points last term and were still pipped to the title by City and Alexander-Arnold says Liverpool will need similar levels of astounding consistency to triumph this time around.

"We're on a good run, we are still unbeaten, at home we have the advantage with the fans so every time we are here we want to pick up the three points we feel we should," he added.

"We picked up a lot last season to get to 97 points and it wasn't enough and we know we have to do something similar this time."

The end of the match became a little terse between the rival teams but Alexander-Arnold says that is to be expected in a game of this magnitude.

"It was always going to be a feisty contest," he said. "It was just about desire at the end of the day because both teams wanted to win." 

Alvaro Morata suggested Atletico Madrid pay no attention to criticism after he fired the capital club to a vital win at home to Espanyol.

Atleti were winless in three in all competitions and four points off the pace in LaLiga coming into Sunday's fixture, with leaders Barcelona and second-placed Real Madrid each winning a day earlier.

Diego Simeone's men fell a goal behind to Sergi Darder's clinical strike, before Morata came to the fore, creating Angel Correa's equaliser and then scoring himself.

Koke made sure of the points in stoppage time to send Atleti into the international break on a high after a mixed start to the season.

Even as the team have toiled, though, losing to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League in midweek, Morata insists their attitude cannot be questioned and the squad are united in ignoring external analysis.

"We are always motivated," he said, having scored in a sixth straight game in all competitions. "It may be that sometimes we do well and sometimes we do not. We always go out to win - and today, we have done it.

"Inside the team, we are a compact group and we are not affected by what is said about us. If we do what we have to do, we will go far this season."

Morata added he felt Atleti had been unfortunate in previous matches not to win and so had no qualms about collecting three points from an unconvincing display against struggling Espanyol.

"The important thing is that we win," he said. "I always say it.

"In the end, it is about being all together, in moments like the other day [in Leverkusen] or in Seville [last week's 1-1 draw with Sevilla], matches in which I think we deserved more.

"But today we have won and added three important points to move up the table.

Morata's contributions turned the match on its head after a tough start in which Atleti looked uncharacteristically shaky at the back, not aided by the unorthodox presence of Saul Niguez at left-back.

Renan Lodi, talked up by his coach on Saturday, was left on the bench, and Simeone explained: "I wanted to have more strength and to have a replacement for Lodi, who had been playing many games and needed a break."

Alvaro Morata scored for the sixth match running as Atletico Madrid returned to winning ways, beating Espanyol 3-1 at home to remain within touch with the top two in LaLiga.

Striker Morata, recalled to the Spain squad this week, has discovered his best form but Atleti had been struggling, winless in three in all competitions heading into this match.

Espanyol looked capable of furthering their misery for 45 minutes, too, leading through Sergi Darder's strike, until Morata created the leveller for Angel Correa in first-half stoppage time.

Morata, who had earlier squandered a clear opening, himself struck early in the second period, and Koke added a late third for Diego Simeone's men to move back within a point of leaders Barcelona and second-placed Real Madrid, both of whom won on Saturday.

Morata missed a huge chance to extend his outstanding scoring streak after 16 minutes, running onto Vitolo's measured pass and lifting the ball over Diego Lopez but missing the right-hand post.

Espanyol started to forge their own opportunities at the other end, however, and Darder was clinical, pouncing on a slack exchange between Thomas Partey and Koke to lash high past Jan Oblak.

Yet Morata was influential as Atleti got back on level terms on the stroke of half-time, with the forward reaching the byline and lifting a cross onto Correa's head for a simple finish.

The VAR confirmed Morata was onside in the build-up, much to Espanyol's frustration, as Naldo - earlier substituted injured having been run ragged by Vitolo - was booked on the bench for his protests.

There was a flurry of activity at the start of the second half, with Atleti denied a penalty as David Lopez and Felipe clashed, before Morata made amends for his earlier miss, holding off a recovering defender to beat Diego Lopez with a right-footed effort.

Espanyol still might have recovered a draw, but David Lopez was penalised for a foul on Koke prior to heading beyond Oblak, although the Atleti captain appeared to have tangled with a team-mate as he clutched his face.

Instead, Koke settled matters at the end of a rapid counter-attack, controlling substitute Diego Costa's cutback and sliding low into the net.

Defending champions Cornwall College, Kingston College (KC), Clarendon College and Jamaica College (JC) will contest the semi-finals of the 2019 all-island ISSA Champions Cup following quarter-final action in Kingston and Montego Bay on Saturday.

KC and JC will contest one of the semi-finals, while Cornwall College and Clarendon College will meet in the other.

At the Stadium East field in Kingston, Clarendon College scored a 2-1 victory over St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) in the curtain-raiser to progress.

Two goals inside the first two minutes of the match set the tone for an interesting battle between the teams.

Roderick Granville handed Clarendon College a 1-0 lead in the first minute of play, but STATHS responded immediately through the inform Warner Brown in the second minute.

Jaland Larmond found the winner in the 39th minute to push Clarendon College into the last four.

In the second match of the doubleheader, JC, through goals from captain Shaniel Thomas (ninth minute) and Omar Thompson (31st minute), defeated Excelsior High 2-1.

Jaheim Flemmings scored the lone goal for Excelsior.

It was the second match between the teams inside four days as Excelsior High held JC to a surprise 0-0 draw in a Manning Cup quarter-final match on Wednesday.

JC won the inaugural title in 2014 when the competition was called Super Cup. It was rebranded in 2018 to become the Champions Cup.

Over at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, KC - the 2017 champions -  scored a dramatic 2-1 victory over Frome Technical in the first match of the doubleheader to book their semi-final spot. KC found the winning goal with seconds remaining in time added on through captain Rajiv Green after the teams were locked at 1-1.

KC took the lead in the 62nd minute when Ryan Woodbine of Frome Technical deflected a shot from substitute Jamari  Morrison into his scored an own goal. However, Frome Technical got back into the contest four minutes later when Giovanni Mittoo scored from a free-kick.

KC found the winner with seconds remaining before the dreaded penalty shootout.

In the late game at the venue, Cornwall College came from a goal down against St George's College, the 2015 champions, to push the game into penalty kicks where they prevailed 3-2.

The teams had battled to a 1-1 draw following regulation time.

Cornwall College are attempting to become for the first team to defend the Champions Cup title.

The Montego Bay-based team beat JC last year to become the first rural area school to win the competition.

 

SATURDAY'S RESULTS
Frome Technical 1 Kingston College 2
Cornwall College 1 St George's College 1 (Cornwall won 3-2 on penalties)
Clarendon College 2 STATHS 1
Excelsior 1 Jamaica College 2

Rodri made a surprise return to the Manchester City starting line-up for Sunday's blockbuster Premier League clash against Liverpool, with Claudio Bravo replacing injured goalkeeper Ederson as expected for the champions.

Spain midfielder Rodri has not featured since suffering a hamstring injury during City's 5-1 Champions League win over Atalanta last month but makes an ahead-of-schedule return at Anfield, where leaders Liverpool are aiming to extend their six-point advantage over Pep Guardiola's side.

A fitness setback during this week's return versus Atalanta might have the greatest impact upon City's prospects, with Ederson's thigh problem heralding a first top-flight appearance since May 2018 for Chile international Bravo, who was sent off after being introduced as a substitute at San Siro on Wednesday.

Angelino is the other eyebrow-raising inclusion in the City XI, with fellow left-back Benjamin Mendy not in the matchday squad.

David Silva, who limped out of last weekend's 2-1 win over Southampton, makes the bench.

By contrast, Liverpool line up as expected – Dejan Lovren partnering Virgil van Dijk at centre-back in Joel Matip's continued absence, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's impressive Champions League outings have not been enough to dislodged either of Jordan Henderson or Georginio Wijnaldum in central midfield.

Fernandinho lines up at centre-back once more for Manchester City and, along with John Stones, the captain must lead the defensive effort to contain Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

Raheem Sterling – against his former team – and Bernardo Silva will flank Sergio Aguero in the City attack, with the club's all-time record scorer still searching for a first Anfield goal.

Unai Emery reached the milestone of 50 Premier League matches in charge of Arsenal on Saturday in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester City, but an overriding sense of disappointment is all he has managed to establish at the club.

Emery arrived in 2018 as Arsene Wenger's replacement, with the Frenchman ultimately paying the price for going 14 years without winning the title.

In fairness to Wenger, spending at the club was significantly reduced in the wake of their move to the Emirates Stadium, particularly when compared to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool over the same period.

It was hoped Emery's introduction would bring a fresh approach and winning mentality after years of stagnation at Arsenal. However, despite his trophy successes in previous spells with Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain, some – justifiably – had doubts about the Spaniard's style of play and training methods often criticised as boring.

After reaching 50 Premier League games, it is difficult at present to see him lasting much longer and his record compared to the division's best highlights the gulf in class.

Going backwards after Wenger

Emery's Arsenal have averaged 1.74 points per game across his 50 matches in the top flight. Of those in charge of the traditional 'big six', that figure is only better than Mauricio Pochettino (1.7) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (1.30) over their 50 most recent Premier League games – though the latter's figures are obviously skewed by his spell at Cardiff City.

That's where the positives end in terms of points per game for Emery, however.

Jurgen Klopp (2.62) and Pep Guardiola (2.52) are way out in front over their past 50 matches, while Frank Lampard – who has only taken charge of 12 in the Premier League – has accumulated a respectable 2.17 points per outing.

Similarly, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has done significantly better, averaging 1.84 points per game across his last 50 matches in the Premier League with Liverpool and the Foxes.

But the real kicker is the comparison with the much-maligned Wenger, whose 1.76 average means he too collected more points over his final 50 games at Arsenal than Emery has in his first 50.

Way behind the most prolific scorers

Wenger's Arsenal also scored more than Emery's side. During the Frenchman's final 50 games, they scored 96 times, seven more than they have with the Basque coach.

City have set the bar in terms of scoring over the period in question, netting 130 times, 12 more than Liverpool.

Defensively it is the other way round. While City's record of 33 allowed is exceptional, Liverpool's is even better at just 31.

Arsenal's defensive woes have been well-documented under Emery, with Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Sokratis Papastathopoulos hardly convincing.

As such, they have conceded 68 times since the start of last season, more than double both City and Liverpool and four more than in Wenger's final stretch.

Emery's already had enough time to solve issues

Emery can at least point to the fact he has lost fewer matches (13) than Wenger (16) did over the periods highlighted, though it's a pretty hollow victory.

Klopp and Liverpool again set the standard here, having lost just one of their past 50 Premier League matches, though even Rodgers has been beaten fewer times than Emery over his 50 most recent games, losing 12.

The overarching issue for Arsenal and Emery is a complete lack of identity, something one can certainly argue they still had even in Wenger's latter days.

While these statistics highlight how far behind the Premier League's leading pair Arsenal are, their lack of a discernible style and direction is arguably the main problem, one Emery probably will not get much more time to fix.

After all, there is little doubt they have regressed under his stewardship.

Bristol City moved back into the Championship's play-off places thanks to a 1-0 Severnside derby win at Cardiff City on Sunday, with Josh Brownhill getting the winner to extend his side's unbeaten run to four.

It was by no means a stroll for the Robins, who were twice bailed out by the crossbar in a full-blooded encounter in Wales.

Junior Hoilett saw a swerving 25-yard drive come back off the woodwork late in the first half, before Leandro Bacuna was denied in similar circumstances just prior to the hour mark.

Bristol capitalised nine minutes later – Brownhill's own long-range effort dipping just under the bar to leave Neil Etheridge helpless - and that proved decisive despite Cardiff's late pressure.

Lee Johnson's men end the weekend in sixth, while Cardiff are seven points back in 14th. 

Bayern Munich parted company with Niko Kovac after members of the squad turned against him, club president Uli Hoeness has revealed.

The Bundesliga champions reached a seemingly amicable split with head coach Kovac last weekend following an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Captain Manuel Neuer claimed each first-team player could comfortably sit down with the former Croatia boss and his brother Robert, who served as an assistant coach, and "look them in the eyes".

Yet it appears some unnamed individuals had grown tired of the regime.

"There have certainly been currents within the team that wanted Kovac gone," Hoeness told ZDF Sport Studio.

"That's why the leadership reacted accordingly."

Hoeness would not be drawn on whether Bayern players are afforded too much power as he shifted the focus to Saturday's impressive 4-0 win over Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund.

That result followed a 2-0 Champions League victory over Olympiacos and could safeguard interim coach Hansi Flick's position.

Bayern are reportedly willing to delay their decision on a full-time appointment until the end of the season, when it will likely become easier to lure either Thomas Tuchel or Erik ten Hag to Allianz Arena.

"During the talks, which are due in the next few weeks, we will certainly talk first about Hansi Flick," Hoeness said.

"One thing is clear: after such an outstanding week, with two convincing wins, you cannot say that we're going to send Hansi Flick away and get someone who might only be able to work for a few months."

Brisbane Roar remain winless in four A-League matches under Robbie Fowler after slipping to a late 1-0 defeat at Adelaide United on Sunday.

The visitors squandered several chances at Coopers Stadium and were made to rue their profligacy in the 84th minute.

James Troisi completed a tidy one-two with Nikola Mileusnic before squaring for Riley McGree to prod home the winner.

Adelaide are now up to fifth, while Brisbane are languishing in ninth with just two points and a single goal to show for their efforts.

Melbourne Victory's malaise continued in the day's early match as they escaped with a 1-1 draw against bottom-placed Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park.

Marco Kurz's men have struggled to meet expectations this season and needed a composed Ola Toivonen finish in the 66th minute to claim a point, their fifth from as many matches.

The Victory captain had been the cause of his team's early deficit, having been punished for a handball in the box following a VAR review.

Ulises Davila converted the fifth-minute penalty and Wellington would have had a second goal to celebrate had Lawrence Thomas not acrobatically denied Alex Rufer late in the second half.

Virgil van Dijk claimed Liverpool do not feel fear and have no interest in holding Manchester City to a draw in their top-of-the-table Premier League encounter.

Liverpool hold a six-point advantage over title rivals and defending champions City going into Sunday's highly anticipated showdown at Anfield.

Preserving that buffer would ordinarily be seen as a reasonable outcome but the Premier League leaders will be wary of repeating the missed opportunities of last season.

Liverpool earned a stalemate on Merseyside in October then lost 2-1 in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium as City pipped the Reds to the title.

Now, with the chance to surge further clear in first, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are not entertaining the prospect of settling for a point.

"That's something we are not going to think about, or discuss now whether a draw is good enough," star defender Van Dijk told reporters.

"We want to win every game that we play and so it is Sunday of course, and they want to win as well. So we will see.

"I have no fear. You should not have fear when you go out on the pitch. That's not something that we feel.

"We know we have the quality to win games, but we have to be more than at our best at times, and hopefully for the full 90 minutes, and try to grind out games as well.

"I think we have been doing it in some games this season."

Liverpool bounced back from last season's domestic disappointment by claiming a sixth European crown with their triumph over Tottenham in the Champions League final.

Netherlands international Van Dijk believes both events have helped forge a stronger Liverpool side.

"A lot of experience we had last year, winning the Champions League, getting so close to the Premier League, it's always going to benefit us in a good way," the centre-back said.

"Winning the Champions League can get you up in the clouds but the manager, the staff, the players have the right mentality at the moment that we want to do it again, like other teams.

"Everyone knows how difficult it is but we are just going to go for it and see where it brings us at the end of the season.

"If it doesn't bring us what we want it to be, we will just try again next year. That's the mentality we have."

Lionel Messi scored a penalty and two free-kicks in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Celta Vigo to draw level with Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with the most hat-tricks in LaLiga history.

Messi scored three times at Camp Nou as Barca eased back to the top of the table after a tough week in which they lost to Levante and drew with Sparta Prague.

Both Blaugrana talisman Messi and Ronaldo have now netted 34 trebles in Spain's top tier, although the former Real Madrid forward, having previously played for Sporting CP and Manchester United before joining Juventus last year, had a shorter stay in the division.

The Portuguese spent nine seasons at Madrid and became the club's record LaLiga hat-trick scorer ahead of Alfredo Di Stefano (22) and Ferenc Puskas (12).

Messi is in his 16th campaign as a first-team player at Barcelona and, with eight goals in seven LaLiga games so far this season, appears likely to eclipse Ronaldo's record before the season is out.

Borussia Dortmund endured another grim Klassiker experience at the Allianz Arena on Saturday as Bayern Munich ran out 4-0 winners.

Bayern were only a week out from a 5-1 thrashing at Eintracht Frankfurt that cost head coach Niko Kovac his job, but Dortmund were still unable to lay a glove on them in a one-sided encounter.

Dortmund last won in Munich in April 2014, with the caveat that their rivals had already been crowned Bundesliga champions before succumbing to a 3-0 loss.

At the start of the decade Bayern-Dortmund was one of the most compelling rivalries in world football. Now, at least when the game takes place in Bavaria, a procession feels somewhat inevitable – as the past five Bundesliga editions show.

November 9, 2019 - Bayern Munich 4 Borussia Dortmund 0

Robert Lewandowski's was his old employers' inevitable tormentor, moving on to 23 goals for the season in all competitions as interim head coach Hansi Flick enjoyed a dream start in the job.

Serge Gnabry was also on target, while ex-Bayern defender Mats Hummels put through his own goal. Jadon Sancho was substituted before half-time for a listless Dortmund, with boss Lucien Favre stating the England winger was "not good enough" on his return from injury.

 

April 6, 2019 – Bayern Munich 5 Borussia Dortmund 0

Hummels – in Bayern colours for the last time in this fixture – opened the scoring as Lewandowski inevitably got in on the act. Goals from Javi Martinez and Gnabry meant it was 4-0 before half-time.

Lewandowski completed a rout that was particularly sapping, given Dortmund had arrived at the Allianz Arena two points ahead in a gripping race for the title, which Bayern and Kovac would retain on the final matchday.

 

March 31, 2018 – Bayern Munich 6 Borussia Dortmund 0

There was no close Bundesliga battle to speak of here, as Bayern moved to the brink of glory by humiliating their rivals.

Lewandowski was a hat-trick scorer on this occasion, with Thomas Muller, James Rodriguez and Franck Ribery in on the act to the delight of veteran coach Jupp Heynckes, who had returned to eek out one more title after Carlo Ancelotti's sacking the previous September.

Far from being able to capitalise, Dortmund entered their own state of flux when Peter Stoger replaced Peter Bosz at the helm midway through the campaign.

 

April 4, 2017 – Bayern Munich 4 Borussia Dortmund 1

Dortmund were unable to match their impressive form of Thomas Tuchel's maiden 2015-16 season in charge and headed to the Allianz Arena fourth, 15 points behind the champions elect.

Bayern surged into a 2-0 lead through Ribery and Lewandowski and, although Raphael Guerreiro's free-kick reduced the arrears, Arjen Robben and a Lewandowski penalty ensured Ancelotti had no real cause for alarm.

 

October 4, 2015 – Bayern Munich 5 Borussia Dortmund 1

Tuchel's first Klassiker was hardly a more pleasant experience. The ever-prolific Lewandowski scored twice for Pep Guardiola's Bayern.

Another man with Dortmund ties, Mario Gotze completed the scoring – Muller having netted a first-half brace before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back.

Hydel High and Mona High progressed to the second round of the 2019 ISSA/Digicel Walker Cup knockout competition following the end of the first-round action on Friday at Prison Oval in Spanish Town.

They joined the Spanish Town pair of St Catherine High and Jonathan Grant High, which booked their second-round spots on Thursday.

Mona High, courtesy of a double strike from Mario Simms, blanked St Jago High 2-0 in the first match of the Prison Oval’s doubleheader to progress from the round and Hydel High, the defending champions defeated Vauxhall High 2-1 in the second match.

In the opening match, Simms handed Mona High a15th-minute lead and completed his double in the 54th minute to ensure his team got home easily.

Vauxhall High took the lead against Hydel High in the 14th minute through Troy Nosworthy, whose attempted cross deceived goalkeeper Shaquan Davis,  but failed to hold that advantage as the defending champions roared back.

Tyrees Simms found the equaliser for Hydel in the 60th minute and Ronel Hines scored four minutes from the end to ensure the defending champion stay on course to defend their title.

The Walker Cup first round comprises all teams knocked out in the Round of 16 home-and-away second round tie of the Manning Cup involving in a playoff. The playoff winners will match up in a subsequent round with the third and fourth place teams in each of the two Manning Cup quarterfinal groups for four matchups on Friday, November 15. The winners of each of those games will qualify for the semi-finals on Tuesday, November 19. The two semi-final winners will contest the final on Saturday, November 30.

Schoolboy football continues on Saturday with the quarter-final matches in the all-island Champions Cup knockout competition.

The Champions Cup comprises the eight teams that finish as winners and runner-ups in their respective daCosta Cup quarter-final groups along with the eight quarterfinalists from Manning Cup competition. 

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

CATHERINE HALL
Frome Technical vs Kingston College - 4:00 pm
Cornwall College vs St George's College - 6:00 pm

STADIUM EAST
Clarendon College vs STATHS - 4:00 pm
Excelsior vs Jamaica College - 6:00 pm

Jadon Sancho was substituted 36 minutes into Borussia Dortmund's heavy defeat to Bayern Munich because he "was not good enough", boss Lucien Favre has said.

The England international was replaced by Raphael Guerreiro early on at the Allianz Arena, where Dortmund were 1-0 down at the time and went on to lose 4-0.

His first-half exit was put down to a troublesome hamstring injury flaring up, but Favre revealed after the match it was instead a tactical decision.

"He was injured for a couple of days and could not train," Favre said at his post-match news conference. 

"Yesterday he returned to training, but I think you saw he was not good enough today. He was not injured."

Robert Lewandowski scored twice against his former club in Saturday's one-sided Klassiker, while Serge Gnabry was also on target before a Mats Hummels own goal late on.

Dortmund were also stuffed 5-0 by Bayern on their most recent visit to Bavaria in April and Favre had no complaints about the manner of this latest hammering.

"I have to say that we were clearly not there," he said. "It was a very very weak performance. You saw today that it was way too little from us, way too little."

Asked if he was more disappointed with the performance or the result itself, Favre responded: "With the performance. It was far too little. We can lose today but not like this."

Lionel Messi scored a scintillating hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo as he dug Barcelona out of a rut almost single-handedly at Camp Nou.

It had been a torrid week for the Blaugrana, who lost 3-1 at Levante before being held to a goalless draw by Slavia Prague, but Messi scored a penalty and two superb free-kicks as his side returned to the top of LaLiga.

The Argentina international delivered much more than just goals on a night when only a win would be acceptable for the Spanish champions, frequently dropping deep and driving an otherwise sleepy Barcelona side into attack.

Messi's goals took his tally to nine in his last seven games in all competitions and drew him level with Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with the most LaLiga hat-tricks, having netted 34, and Sergio Busquets scored his first league goal of the season late in the game.

The defeat was Celta's fifth in a row and newly appointed head coach Oscar Garcia will have his work cut out as he tries to lift them out of the bottom three.

Ernesto Valverde's out-of-sorts side took the lead when Junior Firpo's cross hit Joseph Aidoo's arm as the full-back slid in to block it and Messi nonchalantly rolled a side-footed penalty into the corner of the net, sending Ruben Blanco the wrong way.

But five minutes before the interval, Pape Cheikh sprinted through Barcelona's midfield only to be fouled by Messi 20 yards from goal and Lucas Olaza bent a superb free-kick into the corner of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's net.

Not to be outdone, Messi restored Barcelona's lead with a glorious strike after Fran Beltran fouled Arthur, the club's all-time leading scorer curling a picture-book goal into the top corner from 25 yards.

Ousmane Dembele came off the bench and sent a shot just past the angle of post and crossbar after a jinking solo run early in the second half.

Moments later Messi struck again, stepping up after Frenkie de Jong was fouled and sending a carbon copy of his first-half free-kick looping beyond the diving Blanco to complete his hat-trick.

Pione Sisto tested Ter Stegen from a tight angle as Celta probed for a way back into the game but the hosts continued to dominate and Antoine Griezmann should have put the result beyond doubt when he fired straight at Blanco from close range.

Griezmann trudged off as Valverde sent Luis Suarez on for the last 17 minutes but it was fellow substitute Busquets who stole a slice of Messi's glory when he collected a poor defensive header and drilled a low shot into the net to make sure of the victory five minutes from time.


What does it mean? Valverde can breathe again

Any kind of blip can lead to an unsettled mood around Camp Nou but Valverde's job looks safe again after Messi demonstrated the kind of swagger that is expected at Barcelona.

No stopping Messi's magic

The way Messi scored an unforgettable free-kick just before half-time and then casually repeated the feat three minutes after the break provided a reminder - if it were needed - that he operates on a level above any of his peers.

Griezmann shrinks in the shadow of greatness

One goal in six LaLiga matches is a poor return from Griezmann, who missed a gilt-edged chance and offered very little throughout the game.

What's next?

Barcelona head to Leganes when LaLiga resumes after the international break, while Celta face a trip to Villarreal.

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