CORUNA, GALICIA – Lionel Messi’s 15th L Lionel Messia Liga hat-trick lit up a nerve-jangling nine-goal thriller as Barcelona survived Javier Mascherano’s red card to win 5-4 at Deportivo Coruña to go three points clear at the top of the Spanish football league log on Saturday.
Messi’s latest masterclass overshadowed Real Madrid’s drab 2-0 triumph at home to promoted Celta Vigo. Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty) scored the goals that lifted Jose Mourinho’s team to fourth place, eight points behind arch rivals Barça.
World Player of the Year Messi, who is expecting the imminent birth of his first child, has notched 71 goals for club and country in 2012. That leaves him only four short of the record set by Brazilian great Pele in 1959.
The Argentine has 11 goals in eight La Liga outings this season, two more than Ronaldo. Unbeaten Barça have 22 points, three ahead of Atletico Madrid who were set to play their game in hand at Real Sociedad last night.
“He (Messi) is off to the hospital now for a happy occasion as his son is on the way,” Barça sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta told Spanish television. Barça looked to be cruising to a seventh win of the campaign when they raced into a three-goal lead after 18 minutes at Depor’s Riazor stadium.
Jordi Alba sped on to a Cesc Fabregas pass to score in the third minute. Cristian Tello added a second and then Messi smashed in his first of the night after Fabregas’s clever backheel.
The home side pulled two goals back against the run of play through Pizzi (penalty) and Alex Bergantinos before Messi made the most of another Fabregas assist to make it 4-2 at the break.
In a frenetic start to the second half Depor midfielder Pizzi curled in a stunning 47th-minute free-kick and Mascherano was harshly shown a second yellow card two minutes later. Barça coach Tito Vilanova reacted by replacing Fabregas with Xavi before Messi, who also struck a free-kick against the post, appeared to have killed the game when he made it 5-3 with a trademark run and clinical finish in the 77th minute.
A bizarre own goal from Barça full-back Jordi Alba, when he lobbed keeper Victor Valdes from inside his own penalty area, gave Depor fresh hope, but they were unable to make some late pressure count. – Reuters