MADRID: Lionel Messi scored a sensational hat-trick as champions Barcelona nudged Real Madrid off the summit crushing Tenerife 5-0 on their own patch on Sunday for their first win of 2010.
Barca scored three times in a destructive nine minutes with Ballon D’Or winner Messi scoring two of them (36, 45) before
clinching his hat-trick with a nonchalant curler late in the second half to join Valencia’s David Villa on 12 goals at the top of the goalscoring charts.
Real Madrid had leapfrogged Barca with a 2-0 home win over Real Mallorca earlier on Sunday but Pep Guardiola’s side responded to move back to the summit two points ahead of Real.
Barcelona’s next challenge is at Sevilla in the second leg of the last 16 Kings Cup tie in which they trail 2-1 from the first leg. Madrid had moved top of the Spanish league for the first time since the end of November with goals from Esteban Granero and Gonzalo Higuain overcoming Mallorca as they maintained their flawless home record with a ninth consecutive win.
However, Real’s stay at the top was brief as Barca recovered from a shaky start to put Tenerife to the sword with Messi so inspirational that even the home Tenerife fans were applauding him at the end. Carles Puyol was also on target with an Ezequiel Luna own goal completing the scoring after great footwork from Pedro Rodriguez.
It was tough on Tenerife who lost 6-0 the last time they hosted Barcelona
in the top-flight back in 2001. Tenerife’s Alejandro Alfaro could have had a hat-trick in the opening quarter hour hitting the crossbar and forcing Victor Valdes into action.
Barca had been quiet but Bojan Krkic ghosted past his man in the 36th minute and cut back for Messi to score. Tenerife were aggrieved and it got worse for them as Barca scored twice in two minutes. A minute before the break Messi curled in a devilish free-kick and Puyol used the pace of the ball to glance in a header.
Valencia lie six points behind Real in third after making it seven wins from nine on the road defeating bottom side Xerez 3-1. Spanish internationals Juan Mata, David Silva and Carlos Marchena were all on target to clinch victory at Xerez and boost confidence for Thursday’s last 16 King’s Cup match at Deportivo La Coruna. Deportivo are four points behind Valencia in fourth after a 1-0 home victory over Osasuna on Sunday thanks to a Juan Rodriguez goal.