Messi double as Barcelona set the pace in Spain

    Lionel Messi celebrates yet another goal in the 3-0 win over Racing Santander.

    Story highlights

    • Barcelona stay top of Spain's La Liga with easy 3-0 home win over Racing Santander
    • Lionel Messi scores twice to take his season's tally to 16
    • Gonzalo Higuian scores a hat-trick as Real Madrid beat Real Betis 4-1
    • Inter Milan slip to defeat in Serie A and have four points from six games
    Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat Racing Santander 3-0 in the Nou Camp Saturday night to stay top of Spain's La Liga.
    Messi, hoping for a third consecutive home hat-trick, opened the scoring for Barca in the 11th minute and rounded it off in the 68th. He might have added a further goal but had a strong penalty appeal turned down in the second half.
    The Argentine ace now has 16 in another free-scoring season.
    Midfielder Xavi scored the second midway through the opening half as the reigning Spanish and European champions cruised to victory against the struggling visitors.
    The only blot on their victory was an early injury to central defender Gerard Pique, who has been troubled by a foot problem and limped off after just three minutes to be replaced by Eric Abidal.
    They stayed a point clear of arch-rivals Real Madrid, who earlier Saturday beat Real Betis 4-1 with Messi's international teammate Gonzalo Higuain grabbing his second hat-trick in a week.
    Higuain, who also scored three for Argentina in a World Cup qualifying victory against Chile, made the breakthrough after the break, set up by Cristiano Ronaldo, playing his 100th match for Real.
    Brazilian star Kaka, returning to his best, grabbed the second before Jorge Molina pulled a goal back for Betis.
    Higuian quickly made it 3-1 and then completed his hat-trick, both on passes from Angel Di Maria to snuff out any hope of a recovery by the visitors.
    Valencia missed out on joining Real Madrid on 16 points after being held 1-1 in Mallorca, while Villarreal warmed up for their crucial Champions League game against Manchester City Tuesday with a 0-0 draw at Getafe.
    In Italy, Inter Milan's appalling start to the season continued as they were beaten 2-1 at Catania, leaving them with just four points from six Serie A games this season.
    Inter took an early lead through Esteban Cambiasso but Catania hit back with two goals in four minutes at the start of the second half.
    Sergio Almiron equalized and Francesco Lodi hit the winner from the penalty spot.
    Inter's poor results meant the end of Gian Piero Gasperini short reign, but new coach Claudio Ranieri is also finding positive results difficult to come by.