Neymar struck a masterful hat-trick as a rampant Barcelona beat Las Palmas 4-1 in their penultimate match of the La Liga on Sunday, maintaining top spot in the ranking as a result.
With Real Madrid set to host fourth-placed Sevilla at the same time, the Catalans knew nothing less than a win would suffice if they were to keep their hopes of winning a third successive league title alive.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all started up front as manager Luis Enrique sent out a strong starting XI with defender Gerard Pique missing out due to a stomach complaint. In his stead Marlon Santos partnered Samuel Umtiti in the centre of defence as La Blaugrana looked to pick up their sixth league win on the trot.
Barcelona started out strongly, but a determined Las Palmas defence kept them at bay initially before crumbling under pressure from the the visitors’ famed attacking trio, ‘MSN’.
Neymar opened the scoring in the 25th minute, finishing into an empty net after Suarez had unselfishly laid it on a plate for him, before the Brazilian turned provider two minutes later for the Uruguayan to finish well from a tight angle.
Two goals in a span of two minutes calmed nerves at the Barcelona bench and they proceeded to dictate the tempo of the game without truly threatening Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas’ goal again in the first-half.
Credit to the home side who sparked hopes of a comeback in the second period, with Pedro Bigas finishing off a rapid counter-attack three minutes after the hour mark to rattle their fancied opponents.
Neymar responded four minutes later, heading home Ivan Rakitic’s cross from close range before deftly finishing Jordi Alba’s through ball in the 71st minute to score his third and Barcelona’s fourth.
It was the 25-year-old Brazilian’s first hat-trick of the season and his goals came at a crucial juncture in a match that was a must-win for the Catalans.
Their final league game of the season is on Sunday when they host Eibar, a game they will be expected to win but the title may still elude them should Real Madrid win their remaining two games.