Lionel Messi grabbed his latest trademark hat-trick as Barcelona crushed hapless Rayo Vallecano 6-1 at the Camp Nou to move above Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Messi netted his side’s third goal from a retake from the penalty spot on 56 minutes after Tito was sent off for a second booking after a late tackle on Luis Suarez. Messi then added a fourth (63) and fifth (68) to ensure Barca moved a point clear of their fierce rivals.
With Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid slumping 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday evening, Luis Enrique’s Barca were not in the mood to squander their chance to move to the summit in what turned out to be a stroll in some early Spring sunshine.
Luis Suarez’s fifth goal in four matches had given Barcelona a 1-0 lead on five minutes before Gerard Pique prodded home from close range on 49 minutes to double the Barca advantage.
Suarez added his second in stoppage time despite Barca being down to 10 men after Dani Alves was harshly sent off with 11 minutes remaining for a last-ditch tackle on Alberto Bueno. Bueno slotted the penalty seconds after picking himself up off the ground.
Messi’s treble means he has now scored over 40 goals for the Catalan club in the past six seasons and he has now netted a record 24 hat-tricks in Liga – one clear of Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo on 23.