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Messi scores 4, Real Madrid lose, Barca go top

Published : 23 Feb 2020, 01:05

Updated : 23 Feb 2020, 01:12

  DF-Xinhua Report

Leo Messi of FC Barcelona.File Photo Xinhua.

Leo Messi scored four goals as FC Barcelona returned to the top of the Liga Santander a week ahead of their visit to play Real Madrid in the 'Clasico' in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

   Messi scored a first half hat-trick and another goal in the closing minutes of his side's 5-0 win at home to Eibar.

   The game began after a seven minute delay due to a problem with the VAR and after Barca President Josep Maria Bartomeu had been booed by home fans after revelations linking the club with a company that looked to damage the image of several of its own players on social media.

   Barca had to withstand a difficult opening 10 minutes when the game got underway, but once Messi opened the scoring after a typical mazy run and finish, it was virtually game over.

   Another run and left foot shot gave Messi his second in the 37th minute, while he was on hand to sweep home three minutes later after Antoine Griezmann had a shot saved.

   The last two goals came in the closing minutes and both saw a contribution from new arrival Martin Braithwaite, who crossed for Messi to net his fourth and then saw a shot saved for Arthur to finish the scoring in the last minute.

   Barca's win meant Real Madrid needed to win away to Levante to retain the leadership, but it was a night to forget from Zinedine Zidane's side, who dominated for most of the game only to see their few clear chances denied by Levante keeper Aitor Fernandez.

   Worryingly for Madrid, Eden Hazard had to limp off in the 67th minute and will be a doubt for next week's big games against Manchester City and Barca, and a bad night got worse for Zidane 11 minutes from time when Jose Luis Morales thumped home an unstoppable half-volley to give all three points to Levante.

   Real Sociedad kept their challenge for a top-four place alive with a 3-0 win at home to Valencia, who lost 4-1 to Atalanta in the Champions week in midweek.

   Valencia were never in the game after Mikel Merino opened the scoring in the 12th minute and after Nacho Monreal added a second on the stroke of halftime after a corner, there was no way back for a tired looking Valencia and Adnan Januzaj sealed the win for Real Sociedad three minutes into the second half.

   Celta Vigo had Felip Bradaric sent off after 21 minutes, but a second half goal from Iago Aspas was enough to give them a 1-0 win at home to Leganes, who lacked firepower after losing Braithwaite to FC Barcelona during the week.

   Friday night saw Betis draw 3-3 at home to Mallorca in a thrilling game which does little to help Betis' hopes of qualifying for Europe or Mallorca's aim of avoiding relegation.