La Liga: Neymar scores four in Messi-less Barcelona victory
Barcelona: Neymar rose to the challenge of stepping into the absent Lionel Messi's boots by scoring four times as Barcelona overcame Rayo Vallecano 5-2 at the Nou Camp.
Neymar celebrates after scoring Barcelona's third goal against Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
The visitors took a shock lead on 14 minutes through Javi Guerra, but Neymar turned the game on its head by winning and scoring two penalties before half-time.
Rayo squandered a couple of chances to level in the second half and were made to pay by the Brazilian, who scored twice more in the space of a minute and then laid on a classy cross for Luis Suarez to score the fifth. Rayo's Jozabed hit a late consolation goal but it was very much Neymar's night.
Barcelona went into the game looking for a response to a 1-2 defeat at Sevilla, but were without injured Messi and Andres Iniesta. Barcelona coach Luis Enrique described Neymar as "electric" after the match.
"Neymar is electric and at the moment defenders only have two choices when facing him: commit a penalty or let him score," Luis Enrique told a press conference. "In one word, he was breathtaking." Neymar claimed the performance was one of his best since joining Barca in 2013.
Practice makes perfect
"I'm very happy with the victory and with how we played, because Rayo are a great team and we struggled against them," Neymar told Canal Plus.
"I can't explain how I do what I do because it would be giving clues away, but it is all down to lots of practice."
Rayo had more possession than Barcelona and Luis Enrique admitted his side were not always in control. "We were lacking in confidence in certain moments because we couldn't control the ball."