Home Football English Football Watch: Messi Hat-Trick Restores Barcelona’s La Liga Lead

Watch: Messi Hat-Trick Restores Barcelona’s La Liga Lead

Lionel Messi continued his sublime form by netting his 31st La Liga hat-trick as Barcelona thrashed Levante 5-0 on Sunday to regain their three-point lead at the top of the table.

The 31-year-old Argentinian arrived in Valencia having scored two free-kicks in last weekend’s derby thumping of Espanyol. He took his goals tally for the season to 20 after a virtuoso display, while also teeing up Luis Suarez’s 35th-minute opener and Gerard Pique’s late fifth.

Barca were under pressure after Atletico Madrid and second-placed Sevilla had both moved level on points with the Catalan giants.

But after resting his key stars for their final Champions League group-stage match against Tottenham in midweek, coach Ernesto Valverde saw his refreshed side cruise to a third straight league win without conceding a goal.

Levante started the game brightly and visiting goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was forced into an early save by Ghanaian Emmanuel Boateng.

But Barca did not take long to start moving through the gears, with Messi curling wide from long range before testing Oier Olazabal in the Levante goal with a free-kick.

Just seconds after Boateng hammered a left-footed strike against the crossbar, the reigning Spanish champions broke the deadlock as Messi jinked through a mesmerised home defence and picked out Suarez who volleyed home.

The match was all but ended as a contest when Messi bore down on goal two minutes before half-time and drilled low into the net.

He wasted little time after the restart to add his second in the 47th minute, sweeping home Jordi Alba’s clever cutback, before completing his treble with a simple tap-in from Arturo Vidal’s square pass on the hour mark.

Messi has scored five goals in two league games since finishing only fifth in the voting for the Ballon d’Or earlier this month.

A bad evening for Levante worsened with 14 minutes to play, as left-back Erick Cabaco was sent off for a reckless lunge on Ousmane Dembele. Centre-back Pique added further gloss to the scoreline in the 88th minute, rampaging forward to collect Messi’s pass, before keeping his cool and rolling the ball home.

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jc

© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)

About Chris Kelleher

Student whose interests lie in sports ranging from Darts to MMA, with the likes of Golf, Boxing and Soccer in between. Closet wrestling fan and a lover of sports psychology and stiff jabs.