FOUR-GOAL SALVO FOR LIONEL MESSI
Lionel Messi ensured Pep Guardiola received the perfect Nou Camp send off with a four-goal salvo as Barcelona crushed neighbours Espanyol 4-0.
In Guardiola's final home game in charge before he stands down to make way for his assistant Tito Vilanova, he received a parting gift from arguably the most influential player over his four-year reign.
Messi was again magnificent as he moved on to 72 goals in what has been a remarkable season - 50 of which have come in the Primera Division. He now has 251 in 327 Barcelona appearances.
The Argentinian opened the scoring with a free-kick and completed his hat-trick with a trademark burst and finish. Goals two and four were from the penalty spot even though Espanyol could feel aggrieved by both spot-kick awards.
Although Messi was the star performer, the night was all about Guardiola.
The former Barca midfielder, who has led the club to 13 titles after moving up from B team coach in 2008, was serenaded throughout by the Nou Camp crowd, who also unfurled a huge 'Pep, we love you' banner before kick-off.
Although he has two more games in charge - the league trip to Real Betis next weekend and the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao - this was the Catalan public's final chance to say farewell.
And initially it seemed as though the occasion was getting to some of the players in a nervy opening.
It required someone to calm it down and predictably it was Messi, who curled a wonderful 25-yard free-kick into the right corner after 12 minutes.
Barca's city rivals Espanyol were intent on upsetting the party and Joan Verdu almost equalised three minutes later with a similar free-kick which drifted wide.
Messi turned provider after 29 minutes with a slide-rule pass into the feet of Seydou Keita but the Ivorian was denied by Cristian Alvarez as he tried to go round the Espanyol goalkeeper.
Alvarez then dived full-length to keep out an Andres Iniesta free-kick.
The impressive Iniesta shot wide as Barca started the second half on the front foot.
But Espanyol were still offering a threat on the break and they had a strong shout for a penalty after 61 minutes when Martin Montoya tangled with Raul Baena inside the area.
Referee Fernando Teixeira Vitienes waved away the protests and then infuriated Espanyol further two minutes later by awarding Barca a spot-kick.
Cristian Gomez was harshly adjudged to have handled in the area as Messi tried to knock the ball over his head but the South American showed no mercy by placing his penalty into the net off the post.
Javier Mascherano denied Espanyol at the other end by heading clear after goalkeeper Jose Pinto had charged off his line and lost out to Vladimir Weiss.
Messi claimed his hat-trick after 74 minutes, running on to Pedro's pass to fire a shot under Alvarez and then added another after Sergio Busquets was adjudged to have been tripped in the area by Juan Forlin.
He could have had five but shot wide when clean through.
His work was done, though, as was Guardiola's at the Nou Camp.
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