Lionel Messi scored his second hat trick of the season as Barcelona secured a comfortable 5-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano on Thursday away from home.
Two goals in a minute for Barcelona from the boots of Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic at Rayo Vallecano, plus a Diego Llorente red card sent the Catalans on course to make it a record 35 games unbeaten in succession.
The reigning World Footballer of the year added his second and third of the night after the break before Arda Turan completed the routing as Barcelona with four minutes left on the clock. Manucho Gonçalves’ 57 minute strike was the Franjirrojos’ only consolation of the encounter.
Barcelona boss made three changes for Barca saw Javier Mascherano come in for Jordi Alba, with Jeremy Mathieu moving to the left side of defence, while Sergi Roberto was reshuffled to the right due to Ivan Rakitic’s inclusion at the expense of Aleix Vidal. Elsewhere, Andres Iniesta replaced Arda Turan, but Dani Alves’ one-game ban for five yellow cards ruled him ineligible for selection.
Real Madrid set the existing unbeaten record of 34 matches all the way back in 1988 under Leo Beenhakker, and Barca looked good to break their arch-rivals’ run, having scored 18 goals and conceded none in their last four trips to Vallecas.
The Catalans didn’t wait for long to stamp their authority on the game and went ahead when Juan Carlos dropped a corner and gifted Ivan Rakitic an easy finish from a couple of yards out on the rebound.
La Blaugrana then hit Rayo with a second through Messi after Neymar who having learnt his lesson from two failed one-on-ones as he broke clear down the left and cut the ball back for the Argentine to side-foot a finish past the goalkeeper.
Neymar and Suárez came close with efforts to start the half and then Suárez again in the 53rd minute had ashot bounce off the post, but the rebound fell right to Messi who stroked home a shot to increase Barcelona’s advantage to 3-0.
Rayo never stopped looking to score and they got their just reward four minutes later using their aerial game to break through Barcelona’s defense. A ball across was headed down by Bebé and Manucho was there to meet it and nod home to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Rayo were further reduced to nine players in the 68th minute when Manuel Iturra was sent off for tackling Busquets from behind in the Rayo area, warranting a penalty that was missed by Suarez.
With the two-man advantage, Barcelona were unstoppable and by the 72nd minute Messi was celebrating his hat trick after gathering a pass from Busquets and putting it past Juan Carlos.Substitute Arda Turan capped off the night for the visitors by smacking home a header off a Mathieu cross to finish things at 5-1.Barcelona return to action on Sunday with a visit to Eibar.