BERNAT LÓPEZ / ©XTREM FOOTBALL
In the absence of a certain Messi, Suarez stepped up with a sublime, hat-trick between Coutinho’s opener and Vidal’s header. Marcelo’s goal threatened an unlikely comeback in the second half but the result leaves Real Madrid ninth, seven points off La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Barcelona’s opener only intensified the confusion over Luis Enrique’s snubbing of Jordi Alba. The left-back latched on to Rakitic’s clip over the top. His touch was magnificent, and his delay in squaring for Coutinho sublime.
Madrid’s defensive frailties were again exposed on the half hour as Varane tripped Suarez in the area. After a delay as the VAR instructed referee to study the replay, Suarez tucked his spot-kick beyond Courtois.
The half-time introduction of Vazquez belatedly got Madrid further up the pitch and an improved spell was rewarded with Marcelo’s goal. Barça was visibly rocked, as Isco’s first-half impersonator made way for the playmaker to show his class. Crucially, though, the hosts survived. They came within inches of restoring their two-goal lead when Sergi Roberto teed up Suarez.
This time the Uruguayan found the net, craning his neck back to head past Madrid’s keeper. He completed his treble in style, latching on to a through ball and dinking over the onrushing Courtois.
Yet there was still time for more. Arturo Vidal headed in from close range as the Nou Camp sarcastically cheered Lopetegui’s name. Excluding Messi, Suarez is the first FC Barcelona player to score a hat-trick in El Clasico in La Liga since Romario in 1994. Just brilliant!