Sunday, February 25, 2024

Messi hat-trick keeps Barca on top

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Madrid: A first-half hat-trick by Lionel Messi ensured Barcelona maintained their 100 per cent start to he La Liga season with a thrilling 3-2 win over Valencia.
Messi had looked far from his best in Barca’s Super Cup victory over Atletico Madrid in midweek, but looked more like his old self as he put Barca 2-0 up inside 39 minutes and was then brilliantly set up by Neymar to complete his hat-trick.
However, Valencia were amazingly back in the game by half-time as Helder Postiga struck twice in first-half stoppage time.
Barca then passed up a host of chances to put the game to bed in the second-half and were nearly punished when Jonas struck the post four minutes from time.
Neymar had already had a goal ruled out for offside when Cesc Fabregas sprung Valencia’s high line with a fine through ball on 10 minutes and Messi evaded challenge from Adil Rami and Diego Alves to bundle home from close range.
But just when it appeared Valencia were in control of the game, Barca struck twice in two minutes.
Firstly, Sergio Busquets robbed the ball in midfield to allow Fabregas to set Messi free again to roll into the far corner. And then a wonderful piece of individual skill from Neymar teed-up the Argentine to side foot home his 23rd hat-trick for the Catalans.
Valencia responded wonderfully though and were back in the game before half-time thanks to Postiga’s double. The Portuguese firstly produced a stunning overhead kick to turn Joao Pereira’s cross into the top corner.
Moments later the former Spurs man rose highest to flick home Ever Banega’s corner.
In other late matches on Sunday, Sevilla were held at home 2-2 by Malaga, while Atletico Madrid won 2-1 at Real Sociedad.
Earlier, Espanyol drew 0-0 with Real Betis, while Real Madrid were 3-1 winners at home against Athletic Bilbao. (Reuters)

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