x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Lionel Messi back on song for Barcelona

A first-half hat-trick by Messi puts Barcelona on course to a 5-0 win against Real Mallorca, but Real Madrid provisionally return to the top with a 1-0 victory at Real Soceidad.

Lionel Messi, the Barcelona forward, volleys past Dudu Aouate,  the Real Mallorca goalkeeper, to complete his third hat-trick of the season.
Lionel Messi, the Barcelona forward, volleys past Dudu Aouate, the Real Mallorca goalkeeper, to complete his third hat-trick of the season.

BARCELONA // Lionel Messi scored a first-half hat-trick as Barcelona thrashed Real Mallorca 5-0 while Real Madrid provisionally moved to the top of the Primera Liga after Gonzalo Higuain, their in-form striker, fired them to victory over Real Sociedad.

Messi netted three times in 18 minutes — the Argentinian's third league hat-trick of the campaign — before Isaac Cuenca added a fourth goal in the second half with his first senior strike and Dani Alves rounded off the scoring with a brilliant late goal.

Barca's victory was their third 5-0 triumph in six league game at Camp Nou this season while they have also won 8-0 against Osasuna. Their only setback was last weekend's goalless draw with Sevilla when Messi missed a last-minute penalty.

The win was also Barca's eighth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions.

It was not enough to leave Pep Guardiola's men at the top of the table though, with Real taking that honour thanks to Higuain's solitary first-half goal against Real Sociedad at the Anoeta.

Higuain, Messi's Argentina teammate, has now struck 11 times in his last eight games from club and country and his neat early finish helped Madrid record a seventh successive competitive win.

Jose Mourinho's side sit a point clear of Barca at the summit following Saturday's results, but Levante, the surprise package this season, can climb back above both clubs if they can make it eight wins out of eight against Osasuna.

Elsewhere, Villarreal moved out of the relegation zone and eased the pressure on Juan Carlos Garrido, the coach, with a much-needed 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.

Bruno Soriano and Borja Valero scored either side of half-time, while Marcos Senna also had a first-half penalty saved for the Yellow Submarine.

Sofiane Feghouli scored his first two goals of the season to help Valencia to a routine 3-1 home win over Getafe.

The Algerian midfielder put the hosts in front after only 12 minutes and then restored Valencia's advantage in the 24th minute just moments after Getafe had equalised through Diego Castro.

Aritz Aduriz, the Valencia substitute, then wrapped up the victory with a third goal 14 minutes from time as fourth-placed Valencia moved to within two points of city rivals Levante.