Los Cules' talismanic Argentine scores a hat-trick to surpass Cesar Rodriguez's all-time tally as the champions temporarily close the gap to leaders Real MadridA record-breaking hat-trick from Lionel Messi helped Barcelona emerge as 5-3 victors versus Granada in their La Liga clash at Camp Nou.
The Argentine superstar struck his 232nd, 233rd and 234th goals for the club to surpass the previous scoring record of Cesar Rodriguez, and further goals from Xavi and Cristian Tello helped overcome a staunch resistance from the visitors in the second half.
Xavi gave Barcelona the lead after just four minutes following good build-up play from Isaac Cuenca and Messi. Cuenca did well to evade his marker on the left before lifting a cross to the back post that Messi carefully nodded back into Xavi's path, and he made no mistake in finding the back of the net with his strike from eight yards.
Cuenca was again the provider as Barcelona increased their lead 15 minutes later, the attacker jinking his way past Guilherme Siqueira on the left once more before sending an inviting cross into the area. Granada's Borja Gomez looked to have nodded the ball away to safety, but Messi had other ideas, immediately sending a sublime side-footed volley back across goal and in off the post. That strike equalled Cesar's record, but there was more to come.
The hosts started the second half just how they ended the first, in complete control, and Messi should have increased their lead on 52 minutes after more fantastic wing play from Cuenca, but the Argentine could only scuff his shot wide in a crowded penalty area.
Granada, however, pulled a goal back against the run of play to make it 2-1 on 55 minutes courtesy of their captain Diego Mainz. The Granada skipper did well to rise highest inside the Barcelona penalty area to head home Martins' whipped free-kick from the left-hand side.
The away side then remarkably levelled the scores after the referee awarded a penalty when Daniel Benitez went down inside the area after tussling with Dani Alves. The left-back Siqueira stepped up and confidently dispatched the kick into the back of the net, sending Victor Valdes the wrong way in the process.
Despite Granada's spirited comeback, normality resumed midway through the second half, with Barcelona retaking the lead through the talismanic Messi.
History was made in the 72nd minute as Messi provided a trademark lobbed finish to give Barcelona a 3-2 lead, running through one-on-one against Julio Cesar after a fine ball from Alves had found the attacker in space behind the Granada back four.
That goal takes Messi's tally in official competitions to 233, making him Barcelona's leading goalscorer of all time, one ahead of the club legend Cesar Rodriguez, who had previously held the record with 232.
Barcelona's substitute Tello added a fourth for the home side after a well-worked move between Xavi and Messi found the youngster unmarked six yards out.
Messi still had time to complete his hat-trick late on, running on to a perfectly-weighted Alves through ball before dribbling round Cesar and firing the ball into the back of the net.
The home side then had Alves sent off for a second bookable offence, and again Granada were awarded a penalty. Siqueira bagged his second of the game with a nonchalant chip over Victor Valdes.
But Messi will grab the headlines following his achievement, and the victory is also important in the title chase, as the win means they are just five points behind Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, with the capital side set to play Villarreal tomorrow evening.