Barcelona ruffles Villarreal 5-1 in La Liga

May 9 (UPI) — FC Barcelona beat Villarreal 5-1 in a La Liga matchup Wednesday at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain.

And, per usual, Lionel Messi scored one of the prettiest goals of the contest.

But it was Philippe Coutinho who first got Barca on the board. The Brazilian midfielder scored in the 11th minute. Ousmane Dembele dribbled through the Villarreal defense on the play, before ripping a left-footed shot toward Sergio Asenjo. The Villarreal goalie denied the attempt, but couldn’t secure a catch. The ball bounced back out to his right, finding Coutinho from just a few feet out.

Barca got goal No. 2 after some magic from Andres Iniesta. The veteran midfielder threaded a ball to Lucas Digne at the far post on that play. Digne then passed to his right, as Asenjo came running at his feet. The pass found a wide open Paulinho, who buried a shot into the empty net in the 16th minute.

Then came the Messi score. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner converted in the 45th minute, beating Asenjo for a 3-0 lead. Messi first dribbled around several defenders in the box, before passing out to Iniesta at the top of the boundary. Messi ran to the near post as soon as he sent the pass back. Iniesta immediately passed back to the superstar. Messi caught the lofted feed with his left boot, volleying it in front of Asenjo and into the far post side netting.

Nicola Sansone cut into the Barca lead in the 54th minute, beating Jasper Cillessen by accident. Sansone was standing in the middle of the Barca box when a teammate ripped a shot toward the net. The ball hit Sansone and beat Cillessen to his right.

Ivan Rakitic showed brilliant skill in the 87th minute, dancing around Villarreal defenders before sending a sharp pass to Dembele at the far post for Barca’s fourth score.

“We’re very pleased with the match,” Iniesta told reporters. “We still have the goal of completing the season unbeaten. That would be very special.”

Dembele scored another goal six minutes later, taking a breakaway and beating three defenders, before chipping Asenjo.

The La Liga leaders battle Levante at 2:45 p.m. Sunday at Estadi Ciutat de Valencia in Valencia, Spain.