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Football: Majestic Messi hits four as Barca rout Valencia
Lionel Messi hit four goals to inspire Barcelona to a 5-1 victory over Valencia yesterday (Macau time), but the champions still remain 10 points behind leaders Real Madrid.
Messi, playing his 200th game for the club, took his league goals tally to 27 for the season and 42 in all competitions although third-placed Valencia had stunned the Spanish and European champions by with Pablo Piatti giving the visitors the lead after nine minutes.
The home fans were becoming restless but Messi responded once again when his side needed him most with two goals in five minutes.
The home side continued to push forward after the break with Messi giving Barca a cushion by firing in a rebound after another Alves block.
Messi completed his hat-trick with 15 minutes to go and then notched up his 42nd goal of the season after running clear of the defence and clipping the ball over the keeper.
With the Valencia defence in disarray substitute Xavi Hernandez lobbed the ball over the keeper for the fifth in injury time.
Despite the rout, Barca are still struggling to retain their title after Real Madrid had swept past Racing Santander 4-0 on Saturday.
Levante’s miserable form continued when they dropped out of the European places, losing 5-3 at home to Rayo Vallecano.
Atletico Madrid squandered the chance to move up to fourth as they were held to a 1-1 draw by relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon under new coach Javier Clemente.
In France Montpellier proved their Ligue 1 title credentials by holding league leaders Paris Saint-Germain to a 2-2 draw in the top-of-the-table clash at Parc des Princes on Sunday.
Earlier, Lyon lost precious ground in the race for Champions League qualification after a dismal 1-0 loss at Bordeaux left them three points behind third-placed Lille, who have a game in hand.
Fourth-placed Marseille, who host Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, were held 1-1 at home by Valenciennes but they also have a game in hand on Lyon.
In Italy AC Milan stormed back to the top of Serie A with a 3-0 win at lowly Cesena as they made light of the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Udinese took over third place -- the final Champions League qualifying position -- despite being held to a 0-0 draw at home by Cagliari.
That was because Lazio crashed to a humiliating 5-1 thrashing at Palermo to continue their poor run in 2012, losing six of their 11 games in all competitions. Palermo’s win moved them into striking distance of the European places.
Roma moved up to fifth and sent Inter Milan, who lost 3-0 at home to Bologna on Friday night, down to seventh with a 1-0 win over Parma.
Lecce came from a goal down to beat Siena 4-1 to boost their hopes of beating the drop this season. Lecce remain two points from safety but with Siena the team occupying the final survival position it was a crucial success.
In Scotland Celtic ended a week they started four points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League with a colossal 17-point advantage after a 5-0 win away to Hibernian on Sunday.
Second-placed Rangers’ 10 point penalty for going into administration, and subsequent 1-0 loss at home to Kilmarnock on Saturday, had left Celtic in a strong position even before they kicked-off at Easter Road.
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