Football

Messi bags hat-trick as Barca squal 38-match unbeaten record

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Leganes yesterday morning (Singapore time) which helped the Catalan side equal a Spanish top-flight record of 38 games without defeat.

Messi curled in from a free-kick to break the deadlock in the 27th minute. Five minutes later the Argentinian doubled the lead, taking one touch to control a through-ball from Philippe Coutinho before delivering a cool low finish.

Nabil El Zhar pulled a goal back for Leganes in the 68th minute. However, Messi made sure Barca kept all the points by hitting his third with three minutes left, controlling the ball on his chest and calmly chipping over goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar from close range.

Barca have not lost in the league since going down 2-0 at Malaga on April 8 last year and the win saw them match Real Sociedad's unbeaten run between 1979 and 1980. Ernesto Valverde's side are also undefeated in this season's Champions League.

"It's a historic record which gives you an idea of how competitive the team is," Valverde said, stressing that the record also belongs to predecessor Luis Enrique, who oversaw the first seven games of the unbeaten run at the end of last season.

"I can't explain how we have done it, all we try and do is focus on always winning the next game."

The Catalan side are top of La Liga with 79 points after 31 games. Despite the huge margin his side have at the top, Valverde continued to resist talk about his side being champions-elect.

"When you start to feel like you are the champions, that's the moment you begin to make a mistake," he said.

"We still haven't won anything and there's still a danger we won't win it. We have to keep fighting until the end."

Meanwhile, Sevilla suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Celta Vigo as their former striker Iago Aspas struck a hat-trick in a rampant second-half display.

Spain forward Aspas scored all his goals in the space of 21 minutes, taking his La Liga goal tally this season to 19.

Last night, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid fought to a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 23rd La Liga goal for Real this season in the 53rd minute, before Antoine Griezmann equalised just four minutes later. The draw leaves second-placed Atletico 11 points adrift of Barcelona, with Real a further four points behind in third. - REUTERS

Football