La Liga: Messi on a hat-trick as Barcelona go 10 points clear

By BBC… Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick of the highest quality as Barcelona avenged their defeat by Real Betis earlier in the season to move 10 points clear at the top of La Liga.

His first was a 20-yard free-kick before he converted Luis Suarez’s backheel pass with a toe-poked strike.

The pick of the bunch was a clipped finish that went in off the bar.

Suarez scored a fine individual effort while Loren Moron grabbed Betis’ only goal with a superb finish.

Of Messi’s 33 hat-tricks in La Liga, this surely ranks as one of his finest.

After a cagey first 18 minutes, the 31-year-old broke the deadlock when his superb free-kick found keeper Pau Lopez’s top-right corner.

Barca and Messi then punished their hosts, who beat them 4-3 at the Nou Camp in November, with a lightning-quick move. Suarez found his forward partner with a backheeled through-ball, that beat three Betis players, which was then turned in by the Argentine.

It was 3-0 after the break when Suarez, who missed two earlier chances, drove forward from 25 yards out before slotting past Lopez.

Substitute Loren pulled a goal back with a sidefoot strike past the reach of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, before Messi completed his hat-trick with a stunning effort that had the home support rise to their feet and applaud.

Barcelona now have 66 points from 28 games. They are 10 ahead of Atletico Madrid, with Real Madrid third with 54 points.


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