Lionel Messi’s first hat trick of the season helped Barcelona beat Granada 4-0 and take the top spot in the Spanish league on Saturday. Messi scored twice within the first 15 minutes at the Camp Nou, and added his third in the second half as Barcelona cruised to victory. Neymar completed the scoring with seven minutes remaining .
The victory lifted Barcelona one point above Atlético Madrid, who play at fifth-place Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Barcelona will have a game in hand after the 19th round this weekend. Third-placed Real Madrid trailed Barcelona by five points. Barcelona had drawn four of their last six matches but were coming off a 4-1 win over city rival Espanyol in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.
“I’m very satisfied with how the team played today,” Barcelona’s coach, Luis Enrique, said. “Everybody was focused from the beginning. The players knew how important it was to win these three points.”
Barcelona dominated Granada, who were only 17th in the 20-team La Liga table. Messi and Neymar got the goals but Luis Suárez also played well and had chances to score. “We could have scored more,” Barcelona defender Aleix Vidal said. “But the main thing was to get the three points. We are back in the lead, now we’ll see what happens in the other matches.”
Messi found the net from close range after a pass from Arda Turan, then bagged his second six minutes later by striking an open net after a pass by Suárez. Messi completed his hat-trick after Neymar struck the post and the ball rebounded to the Argentinian inside the area for his ninth league goal of the season. It was Messi’s 33rd career hat-trick. He has a strong chance of winning a record fifth Ballon d’Or on Monday, from a shortlist which includes Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo. Neymar sealed Barcelona’s victory from close range, scoring his 15th league goal to tie Suárez as the competition’s leading scorer.
Dani Alves, who this week called the Spanish media “garbage” for the way it covers soccer, came off the bench in the second half and was loudly cheered by the Barcelona fans.
The club initially condemned Alves’ comments, but late on Friday said it would give its support to the player in case a local association of sports media went ahead with its threat to sue the Brazilian right back