Madrid: Barcelona coach Luis Enrique labelled star striker Neymar “unstoppable” after he scored four times as the European champions roared back from a goal down to beat Rayo Vallecano 5-2 on Saturday.
In the absence of the injured Lionel Messi, the Brazilian converted twice from the penalty spot in the first-half after he had been felled inside the area and then slotted home twice in a minute after the break before teeing up Luis Suarez for Barca’s fifth of the evening.
“Since the start of the season he has been electric,” said Enrique.
“He was very effective and practically unstoppable. With the speed he goes at inside the area the defenders stop him this way by committing a penalty or it is a goal.”
Neymar’s first four-goal haul in a Barca jersey also makes him La Liga’s top scorer for the first time in his three-year spell in Spain with eight in seven league appearances so far this season.
Victory takes Barca back level with Real Madrid at the top of table after Madrid were comfortable 3-0 winners over Levante earlier on Saturday.
However, the Catalans didn’t have it all their own way against an attack-minded Rayo side that often left themselves way too exposed against a Barca frontline containing the talents of Neymar and Suarez.
“I told my players and the press during the week that to play against Rayo is always difficult,” added Enrique.
“I have never had an easy game against Rayo with Paco Jemez as coach. It is a game in which you have to be prepared for every ball and they try to make the game as uncomfortable as possible.
“We take the three points. I am very happy with the first-half performance, we played badly in the second-half, but curiously we were more clinical in the second than the first.”
In a recurring theme of an up and down start to the campaign, Barca once again passed up a host of easy chances to put the game to bed before half time.
Cristiano Ronaldo meanwhile became the Spanish giants’ all-time leading scorer in a comfortable 3-0 win over Levante on Saturday.
Ronaldo struck his 324th goal for Madrid in just his 310th game in between strikes from Marcelo and Jese Rodriguez.
Real had to name a bench with seven academy graduates due to the absence of Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema through injury and coach Rafael Benitez was happy to secure a comfortable win in the circumstances.
“We had a bit of a handicap and to win 3-0 with some very good phases of the game for me is very positive,” said the former Liverpool manager.
The scale of Ronaldo’s latest record is exemplified by the fact he has played 431 fewer games for Madrid than previous record holder and club legend Raul, who earlier this week announced his decision to retire from football next month after a brief stint with the New York Cosmos.
The opener arrived on 27 minutes when Levante needlessly gifted possession to Madrid inside their own half and a neat one-two between Marcelo and Ronaldo allowed the Real captain in the absence of the injured Sergio Ramos to fire home.
Levante nearly struck back immediately, but Keylor Navas’s brilliant start to the season continued against his former club as he flew to his left to somehow claw Deyverson’s powerful header to safety.
And within seconds Levante were punished for again giving the ball away as Toni Kroos squared for Ronaldo to thunder home his 11th goal of the season.