x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Messi and Ronaldo on hat-trick trail as Real Madrid and Barcelona return to winning ways

'You just have to see Messi', says Barca coach Guardiola after their 5-0 win against Atletico Madrid, while Ronaldo inspires Real to a 6-2 win over Rayo Vallecano.

Lionel Messi, right, scores against Atletico. The Barca forward and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo look likely to have another hat-trick rivalry this season after both took their tally to two this weekend.
Lionel Messi, right, scores against Atletico. The Barca forward and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo look likely to have another hat-trick rivalry this season after both took their tally to two this weekend.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both struck their second Primera Liga hat-tricks of the season as Barcelona and Real Madrid each got back to winning ways with big home wins over Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, respectively.

Ronaldo helped 10-man Real Madrid end a disappointing week with a 6-2 derby triumph over Rayo Vallecano, while Messi's treble led Barca, having drawn 2-2 at Valencia in midweek, to a 5-0 mauling of Atletico Madrid.

There had been talk of crisis at Real after Jose Mourinho's men dropped five points away at Levante and Racing Santander this week, and the nine-time European champions looked in more trouble as they fell behind after just 14 seconds tonight, Miguel Cuesta the scorer.

Three goals in 13 minutes either side of half-time from Ronaldo (two) and Gonzalo Higuain looked to have put Madrid back on track, but they found themselves with more problems soon after when Cuesta pulled a goal back and winger Angel Di Maria was sent off for a second booking.

"When you have barely arrived at the game and they score, and under the circumstances we were in, everything looks more difficult," Mourinho said. "But the team reacted well and was able to improve. Later, I didn't like the 3-2 at all. We slipped and gave Rayo a chance."

That left Madrid facing the final half-hour with just a one-goal lead and a man less, but the home fans had no need to worry as strikes from Raphael Varane, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo completed an ultimately comfortable victory.

Ronaldo's final effort, which was his second from the penalty spot, completed his second treble in five league games this season - having netted seven in all competitions last term.

Messi, who finished second behind Ronaldo in last season's scoring charts, was not to be outdone however and he added three more goals to the hat-trick he scored in last weekend's 8-0 thrashing of Osasuna - taking his tally to 12 hat-tricks in Barca colours.

Atletico went into their trip to Camp Nou on the back of successive 4-0 home wins and with new record signing Radamel Falcao having struck five times, but the Rojiblancos' hopes of causing an upset lasted less than 30 minutes as Barca raced into a 3-0 lead.

David Villa opened the scoring in the ninth minute before the Atletico defender Joao Miranda deflected the ball into his own net to make it 2-0 six minutes later.

Messi then added a third in the 26th minute with a trademark individual goal before the Argentinian completed the scoring with two late efforts to leave Barca in second place, a point above Real and one behind the division's leaders, Real Betis, who face Getafe on Monday night.

"It was a difficult game considering how well Atletico had been playing and we handled it well," said Messi. "They have a great team ... but we scored quickly and then knew how to manage the game."

Pep Guardiola, the Barca coach, said that Messi's high-level performances have to be seen to be believed.

"Messi was again decisive, all you can do is congratulate him," he said. "He is a player who cannot be explained; you just have to see him.

"Leo is very fast in short distances. But you have to see Leo play to understand it," said Guardiola. "You just have to find the place to get him the ball."

Elsewhere, Freddie Kanoute's goal gave Sevilla a 1-0 victory over previously-unbeaten Valencia in a game dominated by three red cards at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Kanoute put Sevilla in front on 18 minutes after being sent clear by Jesus Navas.

Sevilla should have been more than one up at the break but were denied by Vicente Guaita on numerous occasions and the hosts were nearly made to pay for those wasted opportunities as first Piotr Trochowski and then Julien Escude were sent off.

Escude's dismissal also resulted in a penalty for Valencia which Ever Banega hit against the post before the visitors were also reduced to 10 men for Aritz Aduriz's apparent stamp on Emir Spahic.

In the night's other game, a second-half equaliser from Villarreal's Nilmar cancelled out Igor Gabilondo's goal for Athletic Bilbao and ensured the Basque side's winless streak in the Primera Division under new coach Marcelo Bielsa continued.

Today in the Primera Liga, Mallorca host Real Sociedad, Espanyol travel to Levante, Granada play Osasuna, Racing Santander make the short trip along the Spanish north coast to Sporting Gijon, and Real Zaragoza are at home to the Qatar-owned Malaga.