MADRID - Lionel Messi netted a superb
hat-trick for Barcelona in their 4-2 away win at Real Zaragoza
to keep them neck-and-neck with Real Madrid at the top of La
Liga on Sunday.
The Argentine forward headed the opener after only five
minutes at the Romareda, and scored a stunning solo effort for
the second in the 65th.
VIDEO: Watch it here
He won the ball in midfield, accelerated past one tackle,
turned a defender twice in the area and then fired low into the
He completed his second successive La Liga hat-trick 12
minutes from time, before Zaragoza substitute Adrian Colunga
grabbed two late goals for the visitors.
Once again it was Messi who steadied the ship, winning a
penalty at the end which an out-of-sorts Zlatan Ibrahimovic
scored to put the gloss on a tough encounter.
VIDEO: Watch full highlights here
The champions moved on to 68 points from 27 games, level
with Real who beat Sporting Gijon 3-1 on Saturday, but stayed
second on goal difference.
"It's a team effort. Everyone works hard and fights hard,"
Messi told Canal Plus television.
"I might be the one who scores the goals, but it is a result
of everyone's work."
Earlier, David Silva set up the first and scored the second
as Valencia overcame a stubborn Almeria 2-0 to strengthen their
hold on third place with 50 points.
They moved four points clear of Real Mallorca, who moved
into Spain's fourth Champions League qualification spot by
crushing 10-man Atletico Madrid 4-1.
Improving Almeria were unbeaten in seven when they arrived
at the Mestalla, and it took a clever turn and defence-splitting
pass from Silva to set up Juan Mata for Valencia's opener in the
The Spain midfielder then grabbed the second soon after,
scoring despite lying on the ground in the area after being
Cash-strapped Mallorca, who have won all but one of their
home games this season, took the lead through Victor after only
10 minutes against Atletico but Diego Forlan levelled for the
King's Cup finalists in the 25th.
Aritz Aduriz restored Mallorca's advantage almost
immediately and Atletico faded after midfielder Raul Garcia was
sent off early in the second half.
Luis Perea sliced the ball into his own net at a corner and
then Felipe Mattioni volleyed a spectacular fourth for the
islanders in the last minute.
"This win makes a point to all those rivals who thought
off-field problems would take their toll on us," Mallorca coach
Gregorio Manzano told reporters.
"Today we have proved we are a strong, ambitious team and
worthy candidates for the European places."
Mallorca moved on to 46 points, two above Sevilla.
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