Messi’s 51st Hat-trick Fires Barca 10-Points Clear

Lionel Messi scored a ridiculous hat-trick as Barcelona avenged their defeat by Real Betis earlier in the season to move 10 points clear at the top of La Liga.

Fresh off inspiring Barca to the Champions League last eight with a virtuoso display against Lyon, Messi curled in a sumptuous 20-yard free-kick to put the visitors ahead, before he converted Luis Suarez’s backheel pass with a toe-poked strike to make it 2-0 before the break.

Suarez scored a fine individual effort, going past three Betis defenders to make it 3-0 and secure the points for Barca.

Loren Moron however pulled one back for Betis with a superb finish 10 minutes from time, only for Messi to put the icing on the cake with a deft chip that went in off the bar as Barca won 4-1.

Messi curled in a stunning free-kick at the Villamarin

After a cagey first 18 minutes, the 31-year-old broke the deadlock when his superb free-kick found keeper Pau Lopez’s top-right corner.

Barca and Messi then punished their hosts, who beat them 4-3 at the Nou Camp in November, with a lightning-quick move. Messi teed up Suarez, who repaid the favour with a backheeled through-ball that beat three Betis players, allowing the Argentine maestro to expertly fire in past Lopez.

It was 3-0 after the break when Suarez, who missed two earlier chances, drove forward from 25 yards out before slotting past Lopez.

Substitute Loren pulled a goal back with a sidefoot strike past the reach of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, before Messi completed his hat-trick with a stunning effort that had the home support rise to their feet and applaud.

Barcelona now have 66 points from 28 games – 10 ahead of closest rivals Atletico Madrid, with Real Madrid third with 54 points.

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