Lionel Messi nets hat-trick in 300th league appearance as Barcelona thrash Levante 5-0
Barcelona have now won their last 12 games in all competitions and are just one point behind Real Madrid
Madrid, Feb 16 Lionel Messi celebrated his 300th league appearance for FC Barcelona with a hat-trick which kept his side hot on the trail of Spanish BBVA Primera Liga leaders Real Madrid as they enjoyed an easy 5-0 win at home to Levante. Messi had scored in his 10 previous appearances in the Camp Nou and wasted little time in making it 11 in a row when he netted in the 38th minute after a smart piece of control Sunday, reported Xinhua.
By then Barca already led 1-0 after Neymar opened the Catalans' account after just 17 minutes and although Messi had a second goal wrongly ruled out for offside before the half-time whistle, he quickly assured the result with further goals in the 59th and 65th minutes before Luis Suarez ended the scoring with 15 minutes remaining.
Barcelona have now won their last 12 games in all competitions and are just one point behind Real Madrid, who defeated Deportivo la Coruna in a flat performance that was at times booed by the fans in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium Saturday evening.
Atletico Madrid, who last weekend beat Real Madrid so convincingly, were brought crashing back down to earth by a 0-2 away defeat to Celta Vigo. A Nolito penalty just before the hour and a goal from Fabian Orellana put Atletico back to seven points behind Real and six behind Barca.
Valencia remained in fourth place thanks to an Alvaro Negredo penalty which was enough to give them a 1-0 win at home to Getafe.
Fifth-placed Sevilla kept up their challenge for a top-four finish with a 3-0 win over struggling local rivals Cordoba. Goals from Krychoviak, who would later be sent off, Carlos Bacca and Iborra gave Unai Emery's side a comfortable win and deepening Cordoba's problems in the relegation zone.
Villarreal's battle for a place in Europe suffered a big setback, however, as they were beaten 0-2 away to Rayo Vallecano, who took three important points and just their third home win of the season thanks to second half goals from Alberto Bueno and Gail Kakuta.