Barca beats Atletico 3-1 in Copa del Rey | sports | Hindustan Times
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Barca beats Atletico 3-1 in Copa del Rey

sports Updated: Jan 07, 2009 09:46 IST
Barcelona beats Atletico 3-1 in Copa del Rey

Lionel Messi scored three goals as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 3-1 and took a firm step towards securing a place in the Cope del Rey quarterfinals.

Messi, watched by his Argentina national coach Diego Maradona at Atletico's Vicente Calderon Stadium, received an ovation from spectators when he was substituted moments after completing his hat trick on Tuesday.

The second leg of the fifth-round match will be on next Wednesday at Camp Nou where Barcelona will be expected to advance in a competition it has won a record 24 times, but not since 1998.

Messi scored in the 12th, 58th _ from a penalty which led to the dismissal of home defender John Heitinga _ and 80th minutes.

Atletico replied through substitute Tomas Ujfalusi in the 69th.

Today, defending champion Valencia visits Racing Santander, while Sevilla entertains Deportivo La Coruna. Third-division Real Union, Real Madrid's conqueror in the previous round, hosts Real Betis, Valladolid visits Sporting Gijon, and third-division Polideportivo El Ejido meets Espanyol.

Tomorrow, Osasuna welcomes Athletic Bilbao and Almeria travels to Mallorca. Barcelona's victory, achieved first-team players including striker Samuel Eto'o, midfielder Xavi Hernandez and goalkeeper Victor Valdes, was its 21st in 26 games in all competitions this season.

The Catalan team was 11 points clear in the league and has reached the Champions League knockout stage.

Atletico, which crashed 6-1 against Barcelona in the Spanish league at Camp Nou in October, lacked top striker Sergio Aguero and left back Antonio Lopez, both of whom were running high temperatures.