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Fantastic Messi hat-trick blows away Betis

18 March 2019

A win against Betis was by no means a formality for Barca, however.

Messi, sporting a trimmed beard, opened the scoring with a typically ideal free-kick.

Messi's goals sent Barcelona 10 points clear of second place Atletico Madrid, taking a decisive step towards the title, but for those watching, the eighth wonder of the world was more important, more significant than the big picture. In the 85th, Barcelona's all-time leading scorer used one touch of his left boot to float the ball from the left side of the box over goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

Messi's three goals helped Barcelona to a 4-1 victory over Real Betis, increasing their huge gap at the top of La Liga.

"Almost every week (Messi) plays at such an unbelievable level", said Betis coach Quique Setien.

Messi's first goal was the product of a foul by Andres Guardado on Arthur that gifted Argentina forward a free kick flawless for his preferred left foot _ just slightly outside the semi-circle atop the area.

He even hit the post in stoppage time, by which time Suarez was limping heavily.

They're now 10 points ahead of Atletico Madrid in second place, and 12 points ahead of rivals Real Madrid.

But regardless of the fixtures, Barca seem to be saving their best for the home straight, which bodes badly for Manchester United, whom they face in the Champions League quarter-finals next month. The Argentina attacker - set to make his worldwide return after nine months away - hit those heights again as he took his LaLiga tally to 29 goals.

After Messi's final strike, a brilliant chip from the edge of the box which went in off the underside of the bar, the home fans at the Benito Villamarin Stadium rose as one to hail the five-time Ballon d'Or victor. Despite having put in a more than admirable first-half performance, Betis unluckily went in to the interval 2-0 behind. Earlier in the season, they lost to them 4-3 at the Nou Camp and remain the only side to beat Erneste Valverde's team on their own patch this season. He will have been the most relieved man in the stadium to see the offside flag belatedly raised.

Fantastic Messi hat-trick blows away Betis