Lionel Messi hat-trick helps Barcelona equal record unbeaten run
Catalan club have now gone 38 La Liga games since their last defeat
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi scores his first goal with a free-kick in the La Liga game against Leganes at the Camp Nou. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters
Barcelona 3 Leganes 1
Lionel Messi fired a hat-trick as Barcelona took another big step towards La Liga title with a 3-1 home win against Leganes.
Messi opened the scoring with a fine free-kick, struck his second before half-time and sealed the win in the closing stages with his 39th goal of the season in all competitions after Nabil El Zhar had pulled one back.
Ernesto Valverde’s side moved 12 points clear at the top of the table, extended their unbeaten league run this season to 31 matches and equalled Real Sociedad’s 38-year-old record of 38 La Liga games without defeat.
Closest challengers Atletico Madrid take on arch rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, but there appears to be no stopping Barca, who are now seven games away from completing the first unbeaten La Liga season in history.
Five minutes later Messi struck again. Coutinho slipped a clever pass into the Argentina international’s path and after taking the ball in his stride he steered the ball beyond stranded Leganes goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar.
Ruben Perez blazed Leganes’ best first-half chance off target, but Barca took their foot off the gas in the second half and the visitors came more into the match.
Claudio Beauvue twice threatened with headers and El Zhar was narrowly wide with his headed effort following Darko Brasanac’s cross.
Leganes pulled a goal back in the 68th minute when El Zhar fired home a low shot from just outside the penalty area, which took a deflection off Sergi Roberto.
Suarez was unable to keep his shot on target after Ousmane Dembele’s cross took a slight deflection as Barca looked to regain their two-goal cushion.
The killer third goal arrived in the 86th minute. Dembele opened up the Leganes defence with a clever pass into Messi and after the ball bounced up off his chest he flicked it over Cuellar for his third La Liga hat-trick of the season.