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Messi hat-trick as Barca win in Vallecas

Xinhua, March 4, 2016 Adjust font size:

Leo Messi scored a hat-trick as FC Barcelona restored their eight-point lead over Atletico Madrid and 12-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top of the BBVA Primera Liga following a comfortable 5-1 win away to Rayo Vallecano, who finished the game with nine men.

Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring after 22 minutes when Rayo keeper Juan Carlos dropped a straightforward cross to allow the Croatian to score a simple goal.

Leo Messi doubled Barca's lead just a minute later after a counter-attack. The Argentinean took a pass from Neymar to score with a first time shot, although the goal should not have stood as Neymar was slightly offside at the start of the move.

The league leaders' task was made significantly easier just before the break when Rayo defender Diego Llorente was sent off for a high tackle on Rakitic, although he was unlucky as TV replays showed he had clearly got to the ball well before his momentum carried him into the Barca midfielder.

Rayo are a brave side and kept on trying in the second half with Barca happy to create chances on the break. Messi netted his second of the night after Suarez had hit the post after another counter-attack eight minutes after the break.

Manucho gave the home side a reward that their attitude deserved when he scored a close-range header just four minutes later.

Ray were down to nine men with 20 minutes remaining as Manuel Iturra was deemed to have denied Barca a goalscoring opportunity as he brought down Busquets, only for Suarez to miss yet another penalty.

It mattered little as Messi scored his third of the night three minutes later after getting through the Rayo defense and Arda Turan headed a fifth in the 86th minute.

Real Madrid won 3-1 away to Levante on Wednesday night while Atletico had an easy 3-0 triumph at home to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Tuesday's over games saw Granada win 2-0 at home to Sporting Gijon, while Betis took a big step away from the relegation zone with a 3-0 against Espanyol in Barcelona. Endit