Messi and Ronaldo register hat-tricks in wins

Messi and Ronaldo score three goals each to lead Barcelona and Real Madrid to victories

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both hit hat-tricks as Barcelona and Real Madrid went on a Spanish goal rampage Saturday, shrugging off worryingly lacklustre midweek performances. Argentine magician Messi registered his 12th career hat-trick in a Barcelona shirt in a 5-0 mauling of Atletico Madrid as the defending champions moved into second place in the table, a point behind Real Betis.

The duo: Hat-trick heroes Lionel MessiĀ and Cristiano Ronaldo during
their respective Spanish League matches on Saturday. Pics/AFP

Messi, who also hit three in the 8-0 rout of Sporting Gijon last weekend, leads La Liga goalscoring charts with eight, one in front of Portuguese star Ronaldo whose hat-trick came in the 6-2 defeat of Rayo Vallecano.
Real are in fourth place, one point behind Barcelona and third-placed Sevilla.

"Messi was again decisive, all you can do is congratulate him," said Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola.
"He is a player who cannot be explained; you just have to see him." Atletico had gone into the game at Camp Nou with the league's best defensive record, having conceded just once in four games.

But once Portuguese midfielder Tiago Mendes hit their crossbar on four minutes it was one way traffic all the way with Barca, who were held 2-2 by Valencia in midweek, at their dominant best. David Villa opened the scoring on nine minutes with the second coming on 15 minutes when a quick piece of attacking play found Messi free in the area and his blocked shot bounced off the unlucky Brazilian Miranda into an open net.

After 26 minutes it was Messi again who burst into the penalty area from the right and beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a low left footed drive. Messi finished a diagonal run on 78 minutes with a clipped shot into the bottom right-hand corner and rounded off his display in the 90th minute, exchanging a one-two with Villa before hitting a powerful shot home.

Real Madrid, who slumped to defeat at Levante last weekend before a goalless draw at Racing Santander in midweek, crushed Rayo Vallecano 6-2, despite playing nearly all the second half with 10 men and having leaked a goal after just 14 seconds.

Ronaldo scored in the 39th minute and converted penalty kicks in the 51st and 84th with the other goals coming from Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema and Rafael Varane on his home debut.

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