Lionel Messi ended his mini-scoring drought in typical style Saturday as he notched four goals in Barcelona’s 5-0 rout of Eibar in La Liga.
The Barca talisman had last scored against Granada on January 19 in Quique Setien’s first game in charge, a run of four games and 389 minutes, but 14 minutes into the game at the Camp Nou normal service resumed.
Receiving the ball on the edge of the area after a long spell of possession, the maestro slipped between two defenders, putting the ball between the legs of one, before scoring the opener.
It was a brilliant individual goal and in the 37th minute he had a second, bursting forward on to a pass from Sergio Busquets to add to his tally.
His hat-trick came two minutes later after good pressing by Ivan Rakitic, the ball eventually falling to him in the box to score from close range.
Barcelona’s new signing, striker Martin Braithwaite, came on with 20 minutes remaining and his cross set up Messi for his fourth and two minutes later his shot was saved with Arthur following up to complete the rout.
The win has taken Barca two points clear at the top of the standings after Real Madrid’s shock 1-0 defeat at Levante later Saturday with Jose Luis Morales scoring a 79th minute winner.
Real suffered a further blow with news emerging that playmaker Eden Hazard had suffered a stress fracture of his right ankle during the match, sidelining the Belgian for an unspecified length of time.
The Camp Nou-victory was a welcome morale-booster Barcelona after a turbulent spell for the Catalan giants with Messi involved in a public spat with technical director Eric Abidal and the Argentine also casting doubts over the club’s ability to win the Champions League.
Before the match, Barca fans waved white handkerchiefs and sang protest songs against club president Josep Maria Bartomeu in a sign of the general unrest.
By the finish cheers had replaced jeers, but tougher tests than Eibar await this week, with a Champions League clash with Napoli followed by El Clasico against Real Madrid which could decide the Spanish title race.
Ronaldo scores in 1,000th game
Meanwhile, Messi’s great rival Cristiano Ronaldo has marked his 1,000th appearance for club and country with the opening goal in a 2-1 win for Juventus at SPAL in Serie A Saturday.
The Portugal superstar was rested for Juve’s 2-0 win over Brescia last weekend, but recalled to Maurizio Sarri’s starting XI he celebrated the notable milestone with the opening goal at Stadio Paolo Mazza.
Ronaldo was finding the net for his 11th consecutive Serie A game, a feat previously only achieved by Gabriel Omar Batistuta in the 1994/95 season and Fabio Quagliarella in 2018/19.
Former Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey adding a second for the Serie A leader on the hour mark.
An Andrea Petagna penalty on 70 minutes gave hope to the home side, but Juve hung on for a valuable three points.
Second-placed Lazio closed to within a point of Juve with a 3-2 win over Genoa Sunday, but third-placed Inter Milan saw its game postponed over coronavirus fears.
Haaland maintains remarkable run
Erling Braut Haaland may well match Messi and Ronaldo’s scoring feats in the future if his current form is anything to go by.
The 19-year-old scored his 40th goal of the season in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-0 win at Werder Bremen Saturday as Lucien Favre’s side stepped up its pursuit of leader Bayern Munich.
Haaland has scored 12 goals in eight games since moving in the transfer window from Salzburg, netting 28 for the Austrian side before his 20 million euros ($22 million) move in December.
Two goals in Dortmund’s thrilling 2-1 win over PSG in the Champions League marked him out as a player of special quality and he was on hand to double his side’s advantage on 66 minutes against struggling Bremen.
Dortmund temporarily climbed above RB Leipzig to second on goal difference, but Julian Nagelsmann’s side thrashed Schalke 5-0 later Saturday to close to within a point of Bayern at the top.