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Wed Apr 16 07:21:24 SAST 2014

Messi hits 21st Barca hat-trick in nervy win

Dermot Ledwith, Sapa-AFP | 21 October, 2012 12:320 Comments
Deportivo La Coruna v FC Barcelona - La Liga
Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's fifth goal during the La Liga match between Deportivo La Coruna and Barcelona at Riazor Stadium on October 20, 2012 in La Coruna, Spain
Image by: David Ramos / Getty Images

Lionel Messi hit his 21st Barcelona hat-trick as his 10-man side edged a thrilling 5-4 victory at Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.

Jordi Alba and Cristian Tello got the other goals for Barca, who had Javier Mascherano sent-off on 48 minutes, while a Pizzi double, a Alex Bergantinos strike and an Alba own goal kept the home side in the game.

The win means Barca go three points clear of Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, at the top of La Liga.

Messi now has 11 league goals, two more than Cristiano Ronaldo who earlier scored for Real Madrid in a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo that kept Madrid eight points behind the Catalan side.

Barca coach Tito Vilanova was relieved to win the game afterwards.

“We’ll take the positives from that. The three points, lots of goals and we controlled the game with 10 men for a long time. The game was a bit crazy and Leo (Messi) has travelled a long way this week but he was still incredible,” he said.

Meanwhile Deportivo coach Jose Luis Oltra had mixed feelings on the defeat.

“It’s a strange result, we let in 5 goals, but we scored 4 and against Barca, I think the fans will be happy with our performance and they were spectacular, especially when we were 3 down, we’ll keep trying to achieve things for them,” he said.

Alba put Barca ahead on the north-west coast after only two minutes, bursting into the area to meet a Cesc Fabregas pass and finish well. Five minutes later, the lead was doubled.

Messi dinked the ball out wide for Tello who moved from right to left and then back to his right foot before hitting an unstoppable shot past Dani Aranzubia in the Deportivo goal.

Barca’s third, 10 minutes later was the pick of the evening.

Mascherano played a forward pass from the halfway line that Fabregas controlled and back-heeled into the path of Messi who powerfully struck a left-footed shot into the top right hand corner.

Deportivo had been undone by Barca’s clever passing play in less than 20 minutes but came back quickly to earn a dubious penalty when Mascherano fouled Riki on 25 minutes. Pizzi converted it.

Then, on 37 minutes, Bergantinos hit a shot from the edge of the area that Victor Valdes seemed to have covered but suddenly fumbled over the line to make it 2-3.

Barca appeared stunned, only for Fabregas to then conjure up another brilliant pass for Messi to finish, this time with his right foot, to regain a two-goal cushion at the break.

Deportivo however were not finished. Within two minutes of the restartn Pizzi had smashed in his second from a free-kick.

Three minutes later Mascherano was given his marching orders for a second questionable clash with Riki, who went down holding his face after the two tussled for a ball.

Messi hit the bar from a free-kick and the action was non-stop from then on as the home side tried to find an unlikely equaliser.

It was Messi who struck again for his third, wrestling to get the ball away from Spain’s World Cup winning defender Carlos Marchena before running at the remaining defenders and hitting a shot home to make it 5-3.

But then Alba turned a ball into his own goal as he tried to stop Pizzi from hitting his own hat-trick.

Goalkeeper Aranzubia came forward for a last-minute corner but it was not to be for a battling Deportivo and Barca took the points in a breathtaking match.

Earlier Gonzalo Higuain and Ronaldo hit a goal apiece as Real Madrid eased past their unambitious opponents Celta Vigo.

Madrid’s assistant coach Aitor Karanka explained his side’s gameplan afterwards.

“We knew if we let them have the ball they would give us problems because they can play good passing football, so we went out to pressure them and not let them settle down to their usual game,” he said.

Higuain put Madrid ahead in the 12th minute when he powered down the left wing and hit what looked like a cross that curled into the far corner.

Madrid had further chances but needed the help of the referee more than an hour later when he awarded what seemed a controversial penalty after Mesut Ozil went down under a challenge from Gustavo Cabral on 68 minutes.

Ronaldo made no mistake from the spot to make it nine league goals for the season and give Madrid the points.

Valencia came from behind on two occasions to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-2.

Their former striker Aritz Aduriz had twice put the visitors ahead. But a fighting performance, including a penalty from Roberto Soldado and a goal apiece from Tino Costa and Nelson Valdez in the last two minutes, gave the home side some respite from growing supporter displeasure after previously only winning two of their first seven games.

Malaga came from behind to beat Valladolid with a hard earned 2-1 home victory to stay in third position.

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