Lionel Messi scored a hattrick to pace Barcelona’s 7-0 rout of Osasuna in the Spanish league on Sunday, ensuring the defending champions stayed in striking distance of leader Real Madrid before their critical ‘clasico’ match next Sunday.
In the process Messi, who now has 371 goals in all competitions, over took Paulino Alcantara as Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer. Paulino had scored 369 goals in 357 matches as a Barca player between 1912 and 1927.
Messi netted from close range to open the scoring at Camp Nou in the 18th minute. Alexis Sanchez made it 2-0 four minutes later before Andres Iniesta scored just his second goal of the season in the 34th.
Messi struck twice more in the second half, either side of Cristian Tello’s goal, to give him a team-leading 18 league goals this campaign, before he set up Pedro Rodriguez.
Barcelona’s win left it in third place, four points behind Madrid, ahead of their meeting in the Spanish capital next week.
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Atletico keep pace
CRISTIANO Ronaldo scored his Spanish league-leading 25th goal to give Real Madrid a lackluster 1-0 win at Malaga on Saturday, when the pacesetters extended their unbeaten run to 30 matches in all competitions. Diego Costa made sure Atletico Madrid stayed within three points of its crosstown rivals by scoring his 22nd league goal of the season in a 1-0 win at home over Espanyol.
Ronaldo netted the winner in the 23rd minute, and a tired-looking Madrid team was fortunate Malaga failed to muster a comeback after pushing the visitors into their area for the final 10 minutes. Third-place Barcelona will enter Sunday’s match against Osasuna seven points behind Madrid in the league standings. The two powerhouses are set to clash in the Spanish capital next weekend.
Madrid’s win was tarnished by the loss of Karim Benzema to a thigh injury after colliding with Ronaldo in the first half. “We suffered, above all in the second half,’’ Xabi Alonso said. “These are three important points. There are 10 games left and we have to play each one like it’s the last.’’
Elsewhere, Rayo Vallecano beat Almeria 3-1 to provisionally escape the relegation zone with a third consecutive victory, while Celta Vigo earned an entertaining 1-0 win at Levante.