Messi hat-trick keeps Barca in sight of Madrid

Messi Barcelona

Messi Barcelona

Lionel Messi struck a stunning hat-trick to ensure Barcelona maintained the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid with a 4-0 win away to Deportivo la Coruna to cut the gap at the top to one point.

Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo rounded off a week where he was named World Player of the Year for the third time by scoring twice as Madrid struck three times in the final half hour to beat Getafe 3-0.

Atletico Madrid, who dumped Real out of the Copa del Rey in midweek, moved back to within four points of their city rivals in third as goals from Mario Mandzukic and Raul Garcia handed them a 2-0 win over managerless Granada.

“Messi has been at an extraordinarily high level all season,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique, despite reports of a dressing room rift between the two in recent weeks.

“He hasn’t dipped at any point. He has been world class.”

In a change from his much criticised rotation policy, Enrique named the same side that beat Atletico 3-1 at home last weekend and was rewarded with another bright display illuminated by Messi’s class in front of goal.

The Argentine’s first effort of the game was brilliantly saved by Fabricio after a well-worked corner, but the Deportivo goalkeeper was helpless when the four-time World Player of the Year opened the scoring after 11 minutes with a thunderous header from Ivan Rakitic’s cross.

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Messi then showed a more subtle touch for his second with a delicate chip over the prone Fabricio to double Barca’s advantage from Neymar’s pass.

However, by contrast, Luis Suarez’s troubles in front of goal continued as he fluffed his lines twice in the first-half with just Fabricio to beat.

Messi showed the Uruguayan how it should be done once more when he rounded off his 30th hat-trick for the club after the break when he cut inside onto his favoured left foot and fired into the far corner before an own goal from Deportivo defender Sidnei rounded off the scoring.

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid were less impressive as they laboured to victory against a Granada side that hasn’t won in La Liga since September leading to the sacking of coach Joaquin Caparros on Friday.

The opening goal arrived 11 minutes before half-time when Diego Godin was hauled down by Abdoul Sissoko as he tried to reach Fernando Torres’s cross and Mandzukic smashed home the resultant penalty for his 16th goal of the season.

Atletico enjoyed more control of the game after the break and finally sealed the points three minutes from time when substitute Garcia bundled home Arda Turan’s cross at the back post.

Sevilla moved to within two points of Atletico in fourth with a 2-0 win over Andalusian rivals Malaga thanks to goals either side of half-time from Carlos Bacca and Denis Suarez.