Barcelona didn’t show any signs of missing Lionel Messi on Saturday, cruising past Sporting Gijon 5-0 to provisionally take the Spanish league lead in its first game without the injured playmaker.
Neymar and Luis Suarez took over in Messi’s absence, leaving Barcelona tied on points with Real Madrid, which plays at Las Palmas later Saturday. Neymar scored two goals and Suarez one, while Rafinha and Arda Turan added the others at El Molinon Stadium in Gijon.
Barcelona and Madrid lead by two points from Sevilla, which plays at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Messi couldn’t play because of a groin injury in the 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou last week. He will miss at least two other games; at Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Champions League and at Celta Vigo in the Spanish league. He also will not play for Argentina in World Cup qualifiers against Peru on Oct. 6 and Paraguay on October 11.
Coach Luis Enrique filled the midfield with Turan, Rafinha, and Andre Gomes, resting Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic.
Sporting played with 10 men from the 74th as captain Alberto Lora was sent off for a second yellow card after a hard sliding tackle on Sergi Roberto.
Suarez put Barcelona on the board inside half an hour after a pass by Turan into open space, clearing the goalkeeper before easily finding the open net. Rafinha added to the lead with a header from close range after a cross by Roberto, who made a run through the right flank after a perfect through ball by Neymar.
Neymar scored after Paco Alcacer’s shot struck the crossbar and came straight back to the Brazilian in front of the goal, and Turan got his goal in the 85th with a header from close range after another cross by Roberto. Neymar, the league’s leading scorer with six goals, closed the scoring with a low shot from inside the area in the 88th.
Sporting, which dropped to 12th in the standings, also lost 5-0 at Atletico Madrid two rounds ago.