Lionel Messi scores twice as Barcelona win 2-0 at Eibar in La Liga
Last Updated: 15/03/15 4:42pm
Lionel Messi scored either side of half-time to give Barcelona a 2-0 win at struggling Eibar and ensure the Catalans stay top of the Primera Division the week before next Sunday's crunch match with eternal rivals Real Madrid.
The Argentinian broke the deadlock from the penalty spot shortly after the half-hour mark and then scored a header early in the second half to seal the points for Barcelona.
The brace also sees the 27-year-old move ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the La Liga scoring charts, totting up 32 goals in 26 starts.
With the second leg of their Champions League tie with Manchester City and the game with Madrid coming up next week, coach Luis Enrique named an unfamiliar looking side for Barcelona's first-ever match at Eibar.
Martin Montoya, Adriano, Marc Bartra, Sergi Roberto and Rafinha were handed race starts. Jordi Alba and Dani Alves were suspended and Luis Enrique opted to rest Javier Mascherano, but stuck with his fearsome attacking trident of Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez.
Eibar have now lost their last eight matches but did not lie down against the league leaders.
Barca dominated the ball in the first period and had 70 per cent of possession, but the hosts did a good job of keeping them at bay, limiting the visitors to just one attempt on goal before the penalty.
The spot-kick came before an exquisite move between Suarez and Messi on the edge of the area and the Argentina international's shot was blocked by the arm of Borja Ekiza.
Messi has been inconsistent from the spot this season but showed no hesitation here, sending Jaime Jimenez the wrong way and sticking the ball into the bottom-right corner.
Messi scored again 10 minutes into the second half, arriving late in the box to head an out-swinging corner from Ivan Rakitic in to the far corner.
Gerard Pique was then perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty when he appeared to block an Eibar shot in the area with his hand.
Barca were well in control of the game and although Neymar, Messi and Rafinha produced some exquisite moments of skill, they lost their hunger to keep scoring.
Instead, the best chance in the remaining minutes fell to Eibar forward Federico Piovaccari, who struck the crossbar with a half-volley from just a few yards out and also failed to turn in the rebound.