Zaragoza 2-4 Barcelona: Messi Hat-Trick Enough As Barca Survive Late Scare

Blaugrana almost stunned by a late comeback from the hosts....
Primera Liga Results, Standings

Barcelona had to survive a late scare to take all three points against a plucky Zaragoza outfit at La Romereda.

Lionel Messi's second hat-trick in succession in the league almost wasn't enough as Barca had to rely on a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty to put the tie beyond doubt as two late strikes from Adrian Colunga had the champions on the rack.

A mistake from Diogo just three minutes into the tie allowed Pedro nip in and cross for Messi, who made no mistake nodding home past the hapless Roberto.

Gerard Pique had a chance to double Barca's advantage less than five minutes later but fired straight at the Zaragoza custodian and almost immediately the centre half was called into action at the other end of the field making a brilliant challenge to thwart Leonardo Ponzio's surge at goal.

Without reaching the level they showed midweek against Stuttgart, Barcelona looked quite comfortable even with the likes of Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol starting from the bench.

Yaya Toure was proving influential in the midfield battle and almost doubled the champions lead but failed to keep his effort down after good work from Maxwell.

On the half hour mark Messi landed a corner on the head of Zlatan Ibrahimovic but the Swede somehow contrived to miss with a free header from inside the six yard box, nodding his downward effort wide of Roberto's goal.

While Barca were certainly on top the hosts were by no means out of the game, the final ball not quite there to reward their efforts as a late Arizmendi free-kick proved the best test for Victor Valdes.

After the break Pedro and Messi continued to terrorise the Zaragoza defence as the Blaugrana went in search of that vital two goal cushion.

Zaragoza' defence was resolute and well organised and Barca, for all their dominance, were finding it difficult to break them down and it took a goal of sheer genius from Messi to eventually prise them open.

The Argentine wizard picked it up wide left and shook off the presence of Ander before jinking his way around three Zaragoza defenders and smashing it past Roberto to grab his second goal.

Nine minutes later Messi had his second Primera Liga hat-trick in succession but not before Ibrahimovic missed a glorious opportunity to put Barca three in front after Pedro played him in and with just the keeper to beat the Swede somehow managed to fire wide once more, side footing off target from six yards with the goal at his mercy.

A moment later Messi showed Ibrahimovic how it was done taking possession from Iniesta 20 yards out, he stepped inside Ponzio and curled a fine effort past Roberto to make it 3-0. Eight goals in three appearances from the Argentinian surely obliterating any doubt as to his status as the greatest player in world football.

With seven minutes remaining Messi robbed Matteo Contini and fed Ibra but again he failed to convert, blazing over this time from around 15 yards.

From the kick out substitute Adrian Colunga raced onto the ball and beat Puyol for pace before angling a low drive across goal into the far corner for what seemed a consolation goal.

Ibra once again had a chance to make it four, this time from Iniesta's deep cross but with the outside of his boot couldn't direct it goalwards.

Barca's three goal lead was suddenly whittled away to a fragile one goal lead as Contini's quick free kick found Colunga who raced into a one on one before coolly slotting past the advancing Valdes to make it 3-2.

Messi restored calm for the Catalans as the game entered stoppage time, dancing his way into the penalty box, he was felled by Contini.

Ibra stepped up and finally bagged a goal, blasting the ball to the 'keepers bottom right hand corner to finally put the tie beyond doubt and secure all three points.

It was a frantic finale and Barca will be thankful that they were not made to rue some slack defending late on and some wasteful shooting particularly from Ibrahimovic, who will be relieved that his team-mate Messi is in such a rich vein of form.