LIONEL Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona took another step towards the La Liga title and set a new Spanish football record of 35 games unbeaten in the process with a 5-1 win at nine-man Rayo Vallecano on Thursday.
Two goals in as many minutes midway through the first-half killed the game as a contest as Ivan Rakitic and Messi netted before Diego Llorente saw a straight red card for a high challenge on Rakitic.
Messi completed his hat-trick either side of Manucho’s consolation for Rayo. Luis Suarez also missed a penalty after Manuel Iturra was also sent-off for the hosts before Arda Turan rounded off the scoring with his first Barca goal.
Barca now lead Atletico Madrid by eight points with Real Madrid a further four points adrift in third with 11 games remaining.