Messi nets treble in La Liga thriller
MADRID, Spanish (AP) — With Lionel Messi as a three-time goal-taker and Cesc Fabregas as a three-time goal-maker, 10-man Barcelona outlasted Deportivo La Coruna in a wild 5-4 shootout in the Spanish league yesterday.
Fabregas set up Jordi Alba's opener before Cristian Tello and Messi both followed suit as Barcelona roared to 3-0 just 18 minutes in, at Riazor Stadium.
But some dubious officiating saw Javier Mascherano sent off in the 49th, and the visitors needed Messi's 17th overall goal in a superb individual effort 13 minutes from time to stay unbeaten and secure the victory over a resilient Deportivo side.
The entertaining victory kept Barcelona eight points ahead of Real Madrid after Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 15th goal in all competitions to help the defending champions labour to a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo.
Messi leads the Spanish league with 11 goals. Ronaldo is right behind with nine. Radamel Falcao can add to his tally of eight today as second-place Atletico Madrid seek a win at Real Sociedad to stay level on points with Barcelona.
Barcelona were a whirlwind at the start, playing unquestionably their best football of the campaign. Fabregas met Jordi Alba's run down the left side for the back to get Barcelona rolling three minutes in, and Tello rifled between goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia's legs to double the lead five minutes later.
Fabregas then laid off a back-heeled pass for Messi to rip over Aranzubia in the 18th as Barcelona looked destined to rout, or at least have an easy time the rest of the way.
But Deportivo rallied with a little help from the referee, who whistled Mascherano for a questionable foul of Ivan "Riki" Sanchez on the edge of the box.
Forward Luis "Pizzi" Afonso stroked in the resulting free kick in the 26th. Eleven minutes later, Alejandro Bergantinos blasted a shot through the hands of goalkeeper Victor Valdes to make it 3-2 and ignite the crowd.
Messi and Fabregas teamed up to put Barcelona back in front by two goals when Fabregas slipped the ball through the defence for Messi to slot into the far side of the net two minutes before half-time.
Barcelona appeared to have regained control, but that quickly changed in the 47th when Pizzi curled a free kick past Valdes, who got a touch on the ball but not enough to keep it out.
Elsewhere, Malaga scored a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Real Valladolid and Valencia beat 10-man Athletic Bilbao, 3-2.