Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both hit hat-tricks as Barcelona and Real Madrid went on a Spanish goal rampage, shrugging off lacklustre midweek performances.
Argentine magician Messi registered his 12th career hat-trick in a Barcelona shirt in a 5-0 mauling of Atletico Madrid late on Saturday as the defending champions moved into second place in the table, a point behind Real Betis.
Messi, who also hit three in the 8-0 rout of Sporting Gijon last weekend, leads La Liga goalscoring charts with eight, one in front of Portuguese star Ronaldo whose hat-trick came in the 6-2 defeat of Rayo Vallecano.
Real are in fourth place, one point behind Barcelona and third-placed Sevilla. “Messi was again decisive, all you can do is congratulate him,” said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. “He is a player who cannot be explained; you have to see him.”
Atletico had gone into the game at Camp Nou with the league’s best defensive record, having conceded just once in four games. But once midfielder Tiago Mendes hit their crossbar on four minutes it was one way traffic for Barca, who were held 2-2 by Valencia in midweek.
David Villa opened the scoring on nine minutes with the second coming on 15 minutes when a quick piece of attacking play found Messi free in the area and his blocked shot bounced off Brazilian Miranda into an open net. After 26 minutes it was Messi again who burst into the penalty area from the right and beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a left footed drive. Messi finished a diagonal run on 78 minutes with a clipped shot into the bottom right and added one more in the 90th minute, exchanging a one-two with Villa before scoring.
Madrid on song
Real Madrid, who slumped to defeat at Levante last weekend before a goalless draw at Racing Santander in midweek, crushed Rayo Vallecano 6-2, despite playing nearly all the second half with 10 men and having leaked a goal after just 14 seconds.
Ronaldo’s hat-trick included two penalties with the other goals coming from Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema and Rafael Varane on his home debut.