Messi hat trick helps Barca halt winless sequence
MADRID (AP) — After a rare bad foul that led to a yellow card and a Celta Vigo goal, Lionel Messi made up for his error with two perfectly struck free kicks to claim a hat trick and lead Barcelona to another victory.
It was the 34th Spanish league treble for Messi, tying former Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo for the most in the competition.
Messi’s hat trick gave Barcelona a 4-1 win over Celta on Saturday, ending the team’s two-game winless sequence and leaving it joint top with Real Madrid, which routed Eibar 4-0 with two goals by Karim Benzema.
Sergio Busquets also scored for Barcelona, which was coming off a league loss at Levante and a home draw against Slavia Prague in the Champions League.
“We needed this victory,” coach Ernesto Valverde said. “A team like Barcelona has to rebound quickly after a setback.”
Barcelona and Madrid have 25 points, two more than Real Sociedad. The Spanish powerhouses have a game in hand because their “clasico” match was postponed until December due to last month’s separatist rally in the Catalan capital.
Messi put Barcelona ahead with a penalty in the first half, but his foul near halftime prompted a yellow card, and Celta’s equalizer from a free kick by Lucas Olaza.
Messi made up for his blunder with two excellent free kicks, one in first-half stoppage time and the other a few minutes after the break. Both times he sent a curling shot over the wall and into the top corner.