Liga - Messi hat-trick sees Barca edge out Real in seven-goal Clasico thriller

La Liga, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu - Real Madrid 3 (Benzema 20', 24', Ronaldo 55') Barcelona 4 (Iniesta 7', Messi 42', 65', 84')

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Lionel Messi goal v Real Madrid (Reuters)

A Lionel Messi hat-trick dragged Barcelona back into the La Liga title race, with Tata Matino’s men emerging 4-3 winners from a thrilling Clasico encounter.

Referee Undiano Mallecano was a central figure, awarding three penalties and sending off Sergio Ramos during the game, with Barca making the most of their man advantage to claim a crucial win.

The result puts Barca just a point behind Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the league table, with just nine games left to be played.

Barca opened the scoring after just seven minutes, when Andres Iniesta drifted out to the left side to exploit space left free by Dani Carvajal. The Spanish midfielder took a touch to control a fine Messi pass before smashing into the top corner.

However, the response from Real Madrid was impressive, with Karim Benzema restoring parity on 20 minutes, rising highest to meet Angel Di Maria’s cross and power a header into the net.

The Catalans were struggling to deal with Di Maria, and the Argentine put on the second goal for Benzema, digging out a cross from the byline to find the French striker, who controlled the ball on his knee before volleying home.

Yet Barca levelled the score just before the break, when a previously lethargic Messi wriggled past two opposition players to slot into the bottom corner of Diego Lopez’s net.

After a good start to the second half by Barcelona, Real Madrid were afforded the chance to re-take the lead when Cristiano Ronaldo was tripped by Dani Alves, with the Portuguese winger dusting himself off to convert from 12 yards.

But Barca responded with a penalty of their own through Messi, after Sergio Ramos, who was shown a red card for his troubles, felled Neymar in the area.

And the visitors took the lead after being awarded another penalty, with Messi stepping up after a foul on Iniesta by Xabi Alonso, to find the top corner of the Real Madrid net, securing a crucial 4-3 win.

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KEY EVENTS

7’ EARLY GOAL – Barca have opened the scoring! Messi feeds the ball out to Iniesta on the left channel, who has acres of space to run into and smash a left-footed strike into the top corner!

13’ HUGE CHANCE – What a chance for Benzema! Di Maria beats about four Barcelona players, nutmegging Alves before squaring the ball to Benzema, who has time and space to pick his spot from eight yards. But he leans back and fires over the bar! Oh dear.

20’ EQUALISER – And we're level! Di Maria whips a great cross into the box for Benzema, who towers above everyone to head into the net. Valdes got a touch but the effort had too much power on it.

23’ GOAL – Oh my goodness! Di Maria and Benzema combine once again. The winger-come-midfielder crosses into the French striker, who takes a touch on his knee before slamming a volley home!

26’ GOALLINE CLEARANCE – Off the line! Di Maria and Benzema AGAIN! The Argentine gets to the byline and digs out a cross for the Frenchman, who takes a touch inside and side-foots towards the goal. He beats the keeper but Pique is back on the line, who turns it round the post!

42’ BARCA LEVELLER – And we're all square! Messi slaloms through a couple of challenges inside the box before squeezing a shot into the bottom corner. Great goal!

43’ PEPE V CESC – Flash point! In the midst of the celebrations Pepe and Fabregas have both gone down holding their faces. The referee has a decision to make, although replays show that both players are playing at it a bit.

53’ CHANCE – What a chance for Benzema! Bale explodes through the middle, beating about three Barcelona players before slotting through his teammate, who takes the shot first time on the turn. But Valdes gets down well to make the save.

55’ PENALTY GOAL – Ronaldo picks himself up and slams home the penalty, finding the bottom left corner. Valdes guessed the right way but there was too much power on the strike. Replays show the initial tackle might have been outside the box.

63’ RAMOS RED – Replays show that Neymar actually tripped himself up as he raced through on goal. So not only was it not a red card but it wasn't even a penalty! Barcelona have got away with one there.

64’ BARCA GOAL – Messi follows up what Ronaldo did just a few minutes ago by finding the corner with his spot kick from 12 yards. Lopez had no chance of making the save.

74’ WOODWORK – Barca hit the post! Messi plays the ball to Alves, who takes a touch before striking at goal from about 20 yards. The ball skips up off the turf in front of Lopez, beating the keeper and hitting the woodwork.

84’ BARCA PENALTY - Messi completes his hat-trick, converting high into the top corner from 12 yards. Great penalty and that goal could save Barca's season!

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND PLAYER RATINGS

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MAN OF THE MATCH

Lionel Messi (Barcelona): Once again the little Argentine was the difference between the two sides, showing impressive composure to find the net at a crucial time just before the break, and then convert two penalties. Honourable mentions to Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema, who also played extremely well and were unfortunate to be on the losing team.

KEY STATS

Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 11 goals in his last 13 Clasico appearances (he scored just two in his first eight Clasicos).

Real Madrid have now suffered their first defeat in 32 games, a run stretching back to their last defeat to Barcelona.

Seven goals or more has been scored in just three out of 89 Clasicos at the Bernabeu.

Lionel Messi is the first Barcelona player to score two hat-tricks in the Clasico.

Real Madrid have won just two of their last 12 La Liga Clasico fixtures.

Lional Messi has now scored more goals in Clasicos (20) than any other player.

TALKING POINT – Did referee Undiano Mallecano make the right decisions? It was a busy night for the referee, awarding three penalties and flashing one red card. The Ronaldo incident looked to happen outside the box, Neymar seemed to trip himself and Iniesta went down easily. All three penalties were debatable, with Ramos unfortunate to be sent off as well. Did Mallecano influence the outcome of the game?

PLAYER RATINGS

Real Madrid: Lopez 6, Carvajal 5, Pepe 6, Ramos 4, Marcelo 5, Alonso 4, Modric 6, Di Maria 9, Bale 6, Benzema 8, Ronaldo 6. Subs – Varane 5.

Barcelona: Valdes 7, Alves 6, Pique 6, Mascherano 4, Alba 6, Xavi 6, Iniesta 7, Busquets 6, Fabregas 6, Neymar 5, Messi 9. Subs – Pedro 6.

THE MATCH IN A TWEET

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