Four for Messi as Barca’s lead opens to 11 points

Madrid, Jan 28: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continued their particular head-to-head rivalry in the Spanish football league La Liga just three days before their respective sides meet in the first leg of the Spanish Copa del Rey semifinal Wednesday.

Messi scored four goals as Barcelona returned to winning ways in the league thanks to a 5-1 win at home to Osasuna Sunday night, reports Xinhua.

Pedro Rodriguez scored Barca’s remaining goal against a rival who had to play for just over an hour with a player less after Alejandro Arribas was shown two yellow cards in the first 27 minutes.

Barca’s lead at the top of the table reopened to 11 points as second place Atletico Madrid crashed to a 0-3 defeat away to Athletic Club Bilbao, who look to be finding form after a poor first half to the season.

All the goals came in the second half of an entertaining game with Mikel San Jose putting Athletic ahead with a header from a corner before Markel Susaeta latched onto a through ball to beat Atletico’s excellent goalkeeper Thibaut Coirtois with a low shot, and Oscar de Marcos ended the scoring with a volley five minutes from time.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Real Madrid defeated local rivals Getafe 4-0 in Sunday’s midday kick-off. Madrid had suffered until Sergio Ramos scored from close range after a clear foul on Getafe keeper Juan Carlos Moya, which the referee failed to see and then Ronaldo hit top gear to leave the result in no doubt.

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho left out several key players ahead of the Copa del Rey semifinal against FC Barcelona.

Rayo Vallecano’s incredible season continued thanks to a 3-0 win at home to Betis, who were clearly suffering as a result of Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal. Rayo captain Piti celebrated his 200th game for the club with a fourth minute penalty before Andreja Delibasic made it 2-0 25 minutes from time and former Sevilla winger Jose Carlos confirmed the win eight minutes from time.

In contrast to Rayo, Mallorca’s problems deepened with a 2-3 home defeat to Malaga, a result that leaves them second bottom of the table and with just one win from 16 league games.

Javier Saviola, Isco and Nacho Monreal scored for the visitors and the goals from Victor Casadesus and Geo Dos Santos may not be enough to save the job of Mallorca coach Joaquin Caparros.

IANS