Lionel Messi was lauded by opposition supporters on Sunday after he scored an outstanding hat-trick in Barcelona’s 4-1 win at Real Betis, which put the Catalans 10 points clear at the top of the La Liga table with 10 games remaining. The Argentine bagged his 33rd LaLiga hat-trick in a Barcelona shirt. With nearest challengers Atletico Madrid falling to a 2-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao the previous day, Messi got Barca off to an ideal start by drilling a free kick into the top corner of the net in the 18th minute.
The Argentine put Barça further at ease with another strike at the end of the first half, finishing off a backheeled pass from Luis Suarez as the two South American forwards carved their way through Betis’s defence.
Uruguay forward Suarez had missed several clear chances to score but he finally got his reward for a lively performance with a goal in the 63rd minute, dancing past four Betis players on a dazzling run which began in his own half.
Loren Moron pulled one back for Betis in the 82nd minute but Messi replied with a sumptuous first-time lob in off the crossbar to complete his treble and the Betis supporters responded by chanting the Argentine’s name and bowing down to him. It was an utterly dominant performance from the La Liga leaders which avenged their 4-3 loss at home to Betis in November and took them on to 66 points after 28 games, while Atletico have 56 and third-placed Real Madrid have 54.
There were worries for Barça at the end of the game, however with Suarez having to receive treatment on the sidelines after hurting his ankle.
Lionel Messi’s hat-trick put Barcelona in a fantastic position to retain their crown in LaLiga Santander, yet with talk of a potential treble increasing, Barcelona fans were happy with Gerard Pique’s comment after the game as he urged people to keep their feet on the ground. Victory over Real Betis put the Blaugrana 10 points clear at the top of the table, whilst they’ve also secured their place in the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United, as well as the Copa del Rey final against Valencia on May 25.
“It’s good that people are excited, but we have to keep our feet on the ground,” Pique confirmed in the mixed zone. “LaLiga Santander is moving closer. “However, the Champions League has been difficult for us at the quarter-final stage.”
Messi was given a standing ovation by Betis fans after his third goal, and his La Masia teammate was quick to praise the Argentine: “He’s a special footballer,” he intimated. “There have been others throughout history, but Leo has been doing this for 14 years. “He’s unique in that there’s nobody like him in history.”
Atletico Madrid’s defeat to Athletic Club on Saturday brought to an end a disastrous week for Los Colchoneros, however Pique refused to accept the suggestion that the domestic title race is over: “We’ve taken three very important points,” he stated. “The gap between us and the others is very important, but there is still a lot of football to play. “We are feeling good, but we must continue to approach things match by match.”
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