Lionel Messi’s dead-ball hat-trick puts Barca back on top

first_imgMatteo Guidicelli had saved up for Sarah G’s ring since 2014? Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi celebrate after scoring during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and RC Celta de Vigo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on November 9, 2019. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)Lionel Messi delivered an incredible dead-ball hat-trick on Saturday to steer Barcelona to a 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo and ease the pressure on his coach Ernesto Valverde.Messi scored with a penalty and then a pair of sumptuous free-kicks either side of half-time after Lucas Olaza had briefly pulled Celta level with a free-kick of his own at Camp Nou. Sergio Busquets drove home to make sure of the win late on.ADVERTISEMENT Barcelona’s disgruntled fans had whistled their team against Slavia in midweek and when Olaza equalised for Celta, that tension and restlessness threatened to return.Instead, Messi took command, this hat-trick taking his tally to nine goals in seven games, 612 in total for his club.“Obviously when it’s tight we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” said Busquets.Yet his precision from free-kicks is a skill the 32-year-old has worked on and improved in recent years, his conversion rate currently at four goals from his last seven attempts in the league.The last time a player scored a hat-trick from set-pieces in La Liga was when Messi himself achieved the same feat in 2012 against Espanyol, albeit with two penalties and one free-kick.ADVERTISEMENT Duterte officials’ paranoia is ‘singularly myopic’ View comments Drilon apologizes to BCDA’s Dizon over false claim on designer of P50-M ‘kaldero’ Makabayan bloc defends protesting workers, tells Año to ‘shut up’ PLAY LIST 02:11Makabayan bloc defends protesting workers, tells Año to ‘shut up’03:07PH billiards team upbeat about gold medal chances in SEA Games01:38‘Bato’ to be ‘most effective’ CHR head? It’s for public to decide – Gascon02:07Aquino to Filipinos: Stand up vs abuses before you suffer De Lima’s ordeal01:28Ex-President Noynoy Aquino admits contracting pneumonia00:45Aquino agrees with Drilon on SEA games ‘kaldero’ spending issue There was good news for Barcelona too in the return of Luis Suarez, who came off the bench after recovering from a calf strain.Messi scored his penalty in the 23rd minute after Joseph Aidoo had blocked Nelson Semedo’s cross with his hand.It was Messi that conceded the foul for Olaza’s curling free-kick that was well-hit enough to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen, even if the goalkeeper might have been disappointed not to be able to get across.There was little Celta keeper Ruben Blanco could do about Messi’s efforts, the first in stoppage time before the interval and the second three minutes after the restart.They were almost carbon copies of each other, bending over the wall and nestling in the top right-hand corner.Celta, under their new coach Oscar Garcia, never looked like mounting a comeback and Busquets put the result beyond doubt with a low shot five minutes from the finish.Real’s players might have been watching on their way home from Ipurua, where they went three up inside 29 minutes, Sergio Ramos scoring a penalty between two Benzema strikes, the second also a spot-kick after Ramos delegated to his teammate. Fede Valverde added a fourth in the second half.Benzema’s double takes him to 157 goals for Real Madrid, above Ferenc Puskas into sixth in the club’s all-time list, but his excellent display was trumped by a creative masterclass from Hazard.“His first half was very impressive,” said coach Zinedine Zidane. “We are happy and he will be a huge player for Madrid, for sure.”Hazard’s vintage performance LATEST STORIES Priority legislation in the 18th Congress Duterte calls himself, Go, Cayetano ‘the brightest stars’ in PH politics What’s behind the display of Chinese flag in Boracay? Rice industry paralysis A 34th treble in La Liga puts Messi equal with Cristiano Ronaldo, while a much-needed win sends Barca above Real Madrid on goal difference and back to the top of the table at the end of a testing week.“It is impossible not to depend on Messi, he illuminates everything,” said Valverde. “We depend on him like any team would depend on him. He unlocked the game.”FEATURED STORIESSPORTSGreatest ever?SPORTSFormer PBA import Anthony Grundy passes away at 40SPORTSSan Miguel suspends Santos, Nabong, Tubid indefinitely after ‘tussle’ in practiceMadrid had briefly claimed first place after continuing their own goal-surge by hammering Eibar 4-0, a game in which Karim Benzema scored twice and Eden Hazard exploded into life.But while Madrid appear to be hitting their stride, Barcelona’s momentum had stalled. After losing to Levante and failing to break down Slavia Prague in the Champions League, scrutiny had again turned on Valverde and his future as Barcelona coach. Australian boxer Dwight Ritchie dies in sparring accident MOST READ Ethel Booba on SEA Games cauldron: ‘Sulit kung corrupt ang panggatong’ Benzema latched onto Hazard’s pass in the 17th minute and after Valverde and Luka Modric missed, the ball spilled back to the Frenchman, who found the corner from an acute angle.Three minutes later it was two, Hazard the creator again, his feet too quick for Pablo De Blasis, who caught his opponent’s right leg. Ramos slid the penalty home.Hazard sparkled, with a brilliant nutmeg, a ‘rabona’ cross and too many glides past defenders to count.Ramos passed on the second Madrid penalty, awarded for a foul on Lucas Vazquez, to allow Benzema to make it three before Valverde had added a fourth, cracking in Modric’s pass for his first goal in La Liga.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. last_img

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