Lionel Messi's 22nd, 23rd and 24th La Liga goals of the season ensured Barcelona secured a 16th straight league victory to break the 50-year-old record set by Real Madrid...
The Argentinian superstar opened the scoring on 17 minutes before doubling his tally 11 minutes later. His hat-trick was completed on 79 minutes with Barcelona easing to victory over a tame Atletico side.
The victory leaves the Catalan club 10 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table with the capital club playing tomorrow against Real Sociedad.
As expected Barcelona settled the better of the two sides and scored the game's opening goal on 17 minutes. The magical Lionel Messi received a short pass from Dani Alves, jinxing his way infield from the right before unleashing a low drive past the out-stretched David De Gea from the edge of the box. La liga goal number 22 for the Argentinian wizard.
Messi nearly doubled his and Barcelona's tally on 22 minutes when Andreas Iniesta slid a perfectly weighted through-ball to the world player of the year. Uncharacteristically, Messi smashed the ball wide of De Gea's post.
The talismanic wideman made amends for his earlier miss when he scored his second of the evening on 28 minutes. David Villa's pass appeared to be intercepted by Tomas Ujfalusi but the Czech defender inexplicably knocked the ball into the path of Messi who made no mistake in slamming it past the helpless Atletico 'keeper.
Barcelona continued to dominate the game and Villa could have had a goal of his own. The Spanish international picked up the ball on the left side of goal before sending a curling effort towards goal which just sneaked wide of the post, a real let off for Atletico.
Los Rojiblancos were much improved in the early stages of the second half and should have pulled a goal back on 53 minutes. A pacey counter-attack led to Sergio Aguero squaring the ball to half-time substitute Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan striker had an open goal to aim for with Victor Valdes on the ground but his 15 yard effort was brilliantly cleared off the line by Gerard Pique.
Messi came close to his hat-trick on 72 minutes when he met Maxwell's looping cross with a powerful header that required De Gea to produce an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the bar.
Messi did not have to wait long to grab his hat-trick as the superstar made it three on 79 minutes. The La Liga top scorer laid the ball to Villa who saw his close range effort parried by De Gea. Messi was on hand to knock the ball into an empty net from two yards out.
The champions travel to Sporting next weekend while Atletico entertain Valencia