Lionel Messi scored three goals in 11 minutes as Barcelona thumped Rayo Vallecano to climb top of La Liga for the first time this season.
The four-time Fifa Ballon d’Or winner is now the all-time leader in trebles in Spanish football, surpassing Telmo Zarra and now leads Cristiano Ronaldo by 5. Real Madrid’s Ronaldo also trail Messi by one in the chart for leading La Liga hat-trick goals on 23 trifectas.
Luis Suarez needed five minutes to send his delightful flick past Cristian Alvarez in goal for Rayo.
Gerard Pique doubled the Catalan giants’ advantage early into the second half, finishing off a loose ball after Javier Mascherano headed against the far post.
Rayo were reduced to ten men ten minutes after the restart as full-back Tito received his second yellow card for hacking down Suarez in the area.
Messi converted the resultant penalty on the second asking after the referee whistled for a repeat.
The Argentine forward poked in a rebound of Suarez’s shot 8 minutes later and then rounded off his 32nd hat-trick with another fine display of his quick feet in the visitors goal area.
Dani Alves received a straight red for bringing down Alberto Bueno, who stepped up to convert from the spot, but Suarez hammered in Barca’s sixth from a Messi assist to seal an emphatic display.
The red hot Uruguayan has now scored ten goals in 15 games in all competitions in 2015 with a total of 13 since completing his biting ban.
The win saw Barca overtake Real at the top of the standings on 62 points, one point ahead of Carlo Ancelotti’s side after their defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Some lackluster performance by the Madrid giants at the San Mames on Saturday set the stage for Luis Enrique’s men to try seizing the Primera Division initiative for a second time after fluffing a previous opening last month.
And with this week’s Champions League round of 16 second leg game at home to Manchester City by the corner, Neymar was rested for Pedro while Mascherano moved back into the midfield in place of the injured Sergio Busquets.
Suarez silenced Rayo’s early guts by beating Tito for space to connect with Xavi’s one-time pass before side-footing into the net from a tight angle.
Ex-Barca player Roberto Trashorras sent his dipping shot straight at Claudio Bravo, but Suarez was more trouble at the other end. The ex-Liverpool forward beat an offside trap and was sent to the turf by Senegalese Abdoulaye Ba, however, the referee waved play on much to the dismay of the obvious home supporters among an 87,000 capacity crowd.
Despite trailing by a lone goal, the visitors continued to employ a high-line formation, piling men forward for an equaliser while lacking the ability to defend when not with the ball.
Xavi again split their defence open, sending Pedro in on goal but the Spaniard dallied on the ball.
The hosts were hardly troubled, even when captain Trashorras’ free-kick clipped the post as they kept proving equal to the task from coast to coast, with the Suarez-Messi combo keeping Paco Jemez’s men in check.
Messi found the side-netting after being picked out by Suarez but there was not to be a second goal in the first half.
That goal came four minutes after the break as Mascherano watched his header come back into play off the post for Pique to poke home.
Tito brought down Suarez and Messi buried in the spot kick on the second try, as his initial effort was saved by San Lorenzo loanee Alvarez- all thanks to the referee who cited an encroachment of the box during the kick.
Barca were 4-0 up three minutes after the hour mark, when Suarez’s shot was palmed out by Alvarez to Messi, who tapped in beautifully.
Messi then collected a pass from the left, dribbled two defenders, rounded the goalkeeper with deft and slid in at the near post.
Alves was sent off for upending Bueno in a goal-bound situation, and the Spanish Under-21 plastered the spot-kick inside the net.
With the numerical balance restored, both sides had an opportunity to get at it again but Barca were yet in ascendancy with Suarez forcing a save off Alvarez. The summer signing eventually placed the icing on the cake on the stroke of full time, slotting in from the right of the six-yard box.