Hat-trick, century for Messi as Barcelona go top


MADRID: Argentine Lionel Messi made it a century of league goals for Barcelona with a hat-trick as the champions crushed Almeria 8-0 on Saturday in the perfect warm-up for their first Clasico showdown with title rivals Real Madrid at Camp Nou in nine days time.
Barca were 5-0 up at half-time as they maintained their perfect away record with a fifth win to go two points ahead of next league opponents Real who can reclaim top spot with a home win over Athletic Bilbao in Saturday’s late match.
The 23-year-old Messi opened the scoring on 16 minutes and netted again on 36 minutes to make it 100 league goals in a Barcelona shirt in just 154 games before completing his hat-trick with a tap-in on 66 minutes. Messi moves to the top of the goalscoring charts with 13 league goals for the season to send a warning to Real Madrid ahead of the Clasico at Camp Nou on November 29.
Messi’s first came about after David Villa’s clever back heel set up the Argentine who curled a fine shot into the corner.
Spanish World Cup winner Andres Iniesta was on target two minutes later as Barca started at a frantic pace and the visitors pressed the self-destruct button on 26 minutes when Peruvian Wilmer Acasiete put a Maxwell cross into his own net.
Barcelona were slicing Almeria open at will and on 34 minutes a long ball from 21-year-old Andreu Fontas, making his first league start for Barca, found Pedro Rodriguez who slid a shot past goalkeeper Diego Alves. Messi then brought up his century getting a second bite of the cherry after Alves had saved his initial shot.
Messi notched his treble on 66 minutes and his 101 goals mean he is fourth in Barcelona all-time league scorer’s list with Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o the next target with 108 goals.
A brace from substitute Bojan Krkic made it 8-0 and by far the biggest win of the season. Barcelona now take on Panathinaikos in Greece in the Champions League on Wednesday before hosting Real at Camp Nou the following Monday.
Unbeaten Real Madrid hope to reclaim top spot by extend their perfect home record with victory over Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu later on Saturday.
Bilbao lost 5-1 to Real at the Bernabeu last season but will hope in-form Spanish international forward Fernando Llorente can build on his eight goals in the league.
Under Jose Mourinho Real have the meanest defence in the league conceding five goals in their 11 league games.