La Liga wrap: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi scores 23rd La Liga hat-trick
Tom Wellman reflects on all the La Liga action from the weekend
Landmark day for hat-trick hero Messi
Lionel Messi marked his 300th La Liga appearance on Sunday by scoring a hat-trick in Barcelona’s 5-0 victory over Levante. Luis Suarez also came off the bench to score a spectacular scissor kick late on to ensure Barca won their 11th straight match, equalling the record set under Pep Guardiola in 2008/09. Neymar grabbed the opener to ensure Barcelona’s expensively assembled frontline all scored as they remain hot on the heels of leaders Real Madrid. Messi is now just two goals behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi ranking with 26, having scored eleven in his last six La Liga games. He also equalled Ronaldo’s tally of 23 La Liga hat-tricks, and in this sort of form he could be racking them up quicker than ever.
Madrid striker crisis ahead of Champions League knockout stages
Madrid maintained their lead at the top of La Liga, but it was far from convincing as they beat Deportivo La Coruna 2-0 at the Bernabeu. Ronaldo, who has scored just twice in his last five league games, missed from a yard out and hit the bar, whilst Gareth Bale also hit the upright in the match. Isco and Karim Benzema were on hand to lead Madrid to victory, despite the abject performance. With Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and James Rodriguez all out injured, Madrid have lost their stability of late and have struggled to score goals as regularly as they did earlier in the season. With Schalke coming up in the Champions League this week, both Bale and Ronaldo will be hoping to get back on the scoresheet.
Atletico lose ground on leaders
After all of their good work last week against Real Madrid, Atletico threw it all away by losing 2-0 to Celta Vigo. Atleti never looked comfortable as Celta dominated the opening exchanges, despite the visitors starting with Fernando Torres, Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann. The latter was unlucky to hit the post with a fierce drive, but by that point the damage had been done with Nolito scoring from the spot. Fabian Orellana then doubled Celta’s lead when he finished off a neat move, wiping away the three points gained on leaders Real last week. With Barcelona between them and the summit, Atletico’s title hopes took a huge battering on Sunday.
Away win eludes Moyes at Almeria
David Moyes was looking for his first away victory with Real Sociedad when they travelled to the side with the worst home record on Friday, Almeria. However, Moyes would have been pleased to have taken a point having twice trailed to the strugglers. Ex-West Brom winger Thievy Bifouma won an early penalty, scored by Jose Verza Garcia after just five minutes, but Imanol Agirretxe equalised with a well-directed header. Tomer Hemed then restored Almeria’s lead before Sergio Canales drew Sociedad level for the second time. Reports this week have been suggesting Moyes is in talks with Burnley’s Danny Ings over a potential move to Spain, and whilst his quality up front would be a boost, the former United manager must address the issue with his defence first.