Lionel Messi scored an extraordinary hat-trick, helping Barcelona avenge their defeat by Real Betis earlier in the season and move 10 points clear at the top of La Liga.
With Barça’s nearest challengers Atlético Madrid falling to a 2–0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao the previous day, Messi got Barça off to an ideal start by drilling a free kick into the top corner of the net in the 18th minute.
Messi managed another strike at the end of the first half, finishing off a back-heeled pass from Luis Suárez as the two forwards cut through Betis’s defense.
Suárez scored a goal of his own in the 63rd minute.
Loren Morón scored one for Betis in the 82nd minute but Messi replied with a stunning hat-trick to complete his treble.
It was an utterly dominant performance from the La Liga leaders which avenged their 4–3 loss at home to Betis in November and took them on to 66 points after 28 games, while Atlético have 56, and Real Madrid, in the third place, have 54.
Messi’s brilliant hat-trick earned him the admiration of the home support: Betis fans actually gave him a standing ovation!
The 31-year-old Argentinian said he was touched by the gesture.
“I’m very grateful,” he said. “It’s never happened to me before. They always treat us very well, regardless of whether we’re rivals.”
Força Barça, eh?