Run-ups are over-rated, just ask Neymar who scored four goals at the Camp Nou on Saturday night – two of which were penalties scored from a standing start.
The Brazilian became La Liga’s top scorer with eight goals this season, scoring twice in each half as Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano 5-2.
Luis Suarez made the third and fourth Neymar goals and then scored the fifth from a Neymar pass. Barca fans are counting the days until Lionel Messi returns. They sang his name in the second half as he watched from the stands alongside Andres Iniesta, who is also injured.
But while they wait for him to come back from his knee ligament injury Suarez and Neymar seem more than capable of holding things together and Neymar may just have the penalty-taking job for keeps.
Barca needed to be at their best because Rayo Vallecano came to attack and they gave the home side a first-half shock when former Manchester United winger Bebe crossed from the left on 14 minutes and Javi Guerra scored from close range.
Going behind was the price Barcelona paid for missing chances. Ivan Rakitic had been denied by Tono in the Rayo goal after being put through by Sergi Roberto and Suarez suffered the same fate after running onto Sergi Busquets’ pass.
Neymar could have had a third penalty but the referee waved away appeals at what looked as clear a claim as the first two he had given. Neymar also set up Roberto just before half time but Tono again saved. He had kept his side in the match but at the start of the second period Claudio Bravo was the busier of the two keepers. He made saves from Lass and Javi Guerra as Rayo showed they were far from beaten.
Suarez deserved his goal and Neymar presented it with him 14 minutes from time with a cross that he converted past Toño. Rayo scored a late second through Jozabed Sanchez but they had been well beaten. Their all-out attacking approach to the game meant they had enjoyed themselves even in defeat – but so had Neymar at their expense.