Saturday, 20 April, 2019

Messi hat-trick takes Barca 10 points clear

18 Mar 2019, 14:39 ( 1 Month ago) | updated: 18 Mar 2019, 19:21 ( 1 Month ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Lionel Messi.File Photo Xinhua.

Lionel Messi scored yet another hat-trick as FC Barcelona signed off before the international break with a 4-1 win away to Betis.
   
The win tightens Barca's grip on the Liga Santander and allows Ernesto Valverde's side to open their lead to 10 points over second place Atletico Madrid, who lost away to Athletic Club Bilbao.
   
Messi opened the scoring in Betis' Benito Villamarin Stadium with a trademark free kick in the 17th minute and netted the second on the stroke of halftime after a pass from Luis Suarez.
   
Suarez netted Barca's third with an excellent solo finish in the 63rd minute and although Loren Moron netted a late goal for the home side, there was still time for Messi to finish his hat-trick with a chip from the edge of the area, which went in off the bar.
   
Barca are unbeaten in their last 14 league matches, taking 38 points from a possible 42 and it would need a disaster in the last 10 games to stop them retaining the title.
   
The weekend's biggest story saw Zinedine Zidane return as Real Madrid coach with a 2-0 win at home to Celta Vigo.
   
Zidane made several changes to the side, with Keylor Navas back in goal and Thibaut Courtois dropped to the subs bench, while there were also starts for Isco, Marcelo, Marcos Asensio and Gareth Bale.
   
Madrid were far from brilliant against a side battling relegation, but won with second half goals from Isco and Bale and Zidane showed his man-management skills by replacing both of them after their goals so they could enjoy the applause of the fans.
   
Saturday saw Atletico Madrid end a miserable week, which also saw them knocked out of the Champions League, as they were beaten 2-0 by Athletic Club Bilbao.
   
The defeat all but ends their title chances and in truth Diego Simeone's side deserved little more against a rival who were the better side for most of the game.
   
Athletic outplayed their rivals and took all three points thanks to a 73rd minute goal from Inaki Williams and a deflected 85th minute shot from Kennan Kodro.
   
Fourth place Getafe took a good point on their visit to Valencia, who were slightly flat following their Europa League action on Thursday.
   
Alaves are also in the hunt for a Champions League place next season after late goals from John Guidetti and Jonathan Calleri, which gave them a 3-1 win away to bottom of the table, Huesca.
   
Joaquin Caparros' return as coach of Sevilla for a third spell began with a 1-0 win away to Espanyol, ending the Barcelona based side's six-match unbeaten run
   
Real Valladolid scored two injury time goal to turn a 1-0 deficit to Eibar into a 2-1 win. Eibar had looked good value for Fabio Orellano's opening goal, but a Daniele Verde penalty in the 91st minute leveled the score and two minutes later Sergi Guardiola went through on goal to give the visitors a vital win to lift them away from the bottom three.
   
Villarreal took a huge step away from the bottom three with a 3-1 win at home to Rayo Vallecano. Rayo took a well-deserved first half lead through Mario Suarez, but Villarreal turned things around after the break with two rapid fire goals from Karl Toko Ekambi and an 88th minute strike from Gerard Moreno.
   
Girona also took a big step towards assuring their survival, thanks to two first half goals from Portu which gave Eusebio Sacristan's side a 2-0 win away to Leganes on Saturday night.