Barcelona returned to the winning ways in the first game after the international break, getting a key 5-2 victory against Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou, thanks to a masterful performance by Neymar. The Brazilian striker destroyed the opposition with four goals and an assist to Luis Suárez, and was easily the best player on the pitch in one of the best individual performances we've seen this season. With the triumph, the Catalan giants continue tied on points with Real Madrid at the top of the league table, and gain good momentum ahead of the Champions League match in midweek.
It was the best 45 minutes we saw from Barcelona all this season. Not exactly due to collective performance, since not all eleven players were at their best. But some individuals stood out, like Mathieu, Alba, Busquets and Roberto, all four very solid on defense. Gerard Piqué and Dani Alves continued their horrible forms, and combined for the first goal that went to the Madrid side with poacher Javi Guerra.
But then, the best individual on the pitch took over. Neymar Jr. absolutely destroyed the game all by himself, dribbling through the defense, showing off some absurd skills, and taking four clear penalties just in the first half. The referee just gave him two, but they were enough for the Brazlian to finish off one of the most spectacular halves by a single player we've seen in a while and give the Blaugrana a deserving lead.
The initial minutes of the second period were completely agonizing. Barça couldn't retain the ball and control the midfield, and thanks to an ultra-attacking lineup by Paco Jémez, Rayo took advantage and created very dangerous chances, but a shining Claudio Bravo stopped all shots and maintained the Catalans' narrow lead.
Then Neymar went to work again to make things better for his team. After a beautiful long pass from Rakitic, Neymar passed the ball to Suárez, didn't give up on the play, and buried home his hat-trick goal after the rebound from Luisito's shot. Only 40 seconds later, Suárez stolen a ball and gave an unselfish pass to the Brazilian, who scored his fourth of the match. Then Neymar decided to return the favor and assisted his Uruguayan friend with a gorgeous cross. Game over.
For the first time in a long time, it felt good to watch a Barça game. Thank you, Neymar.
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves (Douglas), Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Busquets (Gumbau), Rakitic, Roberto; Sandro (Munir), Suárez, Neymar
Goals: Neymar (p. 22', p. 32', 69', 70'), Suárez (76')
Rayo: Toño; Nacho (Dorado), Llorente, Zé Castro, Rat; Trashorras, Josabed; Ebert, Lass, Bebé (Embarba); Javi Guerra
Goals: Guerra (14'), Josabed (86')