April 7, 2018 / 9:11 PM / 12 days ago

Soccer-Messi bags hat-trick as Barca equal La Liga unbeaten record

BARCELONA, April 7 (Reuters) - Barcelona forward Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Leganes on Saturday which took the Catalans 12 points clear at the top of La Liga and also meant they equalled a Spanish top-flight record of 38 games without defeat.

Messi curled in from a free kick to break the deadlock in the 27th minute. Five minutes later the Argentine doubled the lead, taking one touch to control a through ball from Philippe Coutinho before delivering a cool low finish.

Nabil El Zhar pulled a goal back for 14th-placed Leganes in the 68th minute. However, Messi made sure Barca kept all the points by hitting his third with three minutes left, controlling the ball on his chest and calmly chipping goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar from close range.

Barca have not lost in the league since going down 2-0 at Malaga on April 8 last year and the win saw them match Real Sociedad’s unbeaten run between 1979 and 1980. Ernesto Valverde’s side are also undefeated in the Champions League this campaign.

The Catalans are top of La Liga with 79 points after 31 games and have a 12-point advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid, who visit champions Real Madrid in a local derby on Sunday. (Reporting by Richard Martin Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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