By Rik Sharma
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona thrashed Osasuna 7-1 on Wednesday as Lionel Messi, Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer each scored twice to send them three points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Javier Mascherano scored his first ever goal for the club from the penalty spot as the Catalans built on their Clasico victory over Madrid on Sunday to move clear of their bitter rivals, who play later at Deportivo LaCoruna, one of two games in hand.
Osasuna, 20th, were relegated after 17th-placed Leganes beat Las Palmas 3-0 to move 12 points clear, an insurmountable total for Osasuna with four games to go because of their inferior head-to-head record.
Petar Vasiljevic, their coach, said: “We had to win. We have suffered a lot since January. We’ve lacked both points and luck, and when that’s the case it’s hard to turn things around.”
Messi opened the scoring with a solo dribble, capped with a neat chip over goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, before Gomes volleyed home Ivan Rakitic’s cross.
Roberto Torres whipped in a free kick just after halftime to drag his team back into the match, but Barcelona then ran riot, seeing out the game with a flurry of goals that left the visitors marooned at the bottom of the table.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said: “I think it was a complete performance. When they got back to 2-1, which was the worst moment because they’re back in the game and you never know (what might happen), we were able to put our foot on the accelerator and close the game out.
“The way we played, we deserved to win by a large margin.”
The victory puts Barcelona on 78 points from 34 games, with Madrid on 75 from 32 before their match against Depor.
After the home fans displayed a huge banner in tribute to Messi, who scored his 500th goal for the club in Sunday's Clasico, the Argentine repaid their gratitude in the 12th minute by adding another fine goal to his collection, juggling the ball before lofting it home.
With Osasuna reluctant to leave their half, Barcelona dominated possession and soon had their second, as Gomes slammed home a goal that will boost his confidence after some shaky performances and criticism from fans.
Torres´s perfect free kick in the 48th minute gave the visitors hope, but Gomes struck again after Gerard Pique´s effort came back off the post and fell neatly for him in the area.
Messi then curled home another fine strike just after the hour mark, before being taken off two minutes later, with the Catalan derby clash against Espanyol to come on Saturday.
Alcacer got on the scoresheet after Arda Turan´s ball into the area caused a scramble and notched again at the death, with Mascherano hammering home a penalty in-between after Denis Suarez was fouled.
It was the Argentine's first goal for the club in 319 appearances after his arrival from Liverpool in 2010.
(Editing by Toby Davis, Neville Dalton)