Goal difference is still all there is to choose between the two at the top, as Barcelona swept aside Valencia 3-0 at the Nou Camp, whilst Real Madrid ran out 4-1 winners away to Valladolid.
Lionel Messi continued his assualt towards the La Liga golden boot with a hat-trick for the Catalan giants. After an evenly contested first-half, Pep Guardiola replaced the dissapointing Bojan, who started in place of the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovich, with Thierry Henry whose impact changed the course of the game. Messi’s first on 56 minutes however, was all down to indivdual brilliance. Picking up the ball 35 yards from goal, the World Player of the Year glided past three Valencia defenders, leaving them in his wake as he smased a low drive beyond Cesar. Maxwell immediately after had a goal ruled out offside, before at the other end Valencia substitute Nikola Zigic was denied byVictor Valdes when one-on-one with the keeper. Moments later it proved costly as Hedwiges Maduro sithed down Messi for his second yellow card as Barca wen on to make use of the numerical advantage. In the 81st minute,Messi latched on to a brilliant cross-field pass from Henry, controlling the ball beautifully before hitting a grea curling shot into the net. On 83 minutes, the hat-trick was complete. Another sublime pass from the Frenchman was met by Messi, who this time slid the ball under the keeper to wrap up the three points.
It was another Argetine who stole the show in the other clash at the top, as Real Madrid won 4-1 away to Valladolid to stay on top of the pile. Gonzalo Higuain hit a hat-trick along with a strike from Cristiano Ronaldo to seal the win. Real took the lead after 28 minutes as Ronaldo’s free-kick was deflected high into the net past the despairing dive of Justo Villar. Higuain then added two goals of his own either side of the interval. His first came on the stroke of half-time as he met a cross from the left from Rafael Van Der Vaart to side foot home from close range. His second came after 53 minutes as he met a headed pass from Ronaldo with a placed finish into the bottom corner. Valladolid were briefly back in the contest just six minutes later, as a save from Iker Casillas hit the legs of his own defender Raul Albiol and ended up back in the corne of the Madrid net. It did not last long though as in the 65th minute Higuain completed the scoring, getting the final touch on a Ronaldo cross shot to fire past Villar once more.
It was a stalemate in the battle at the bottom as Racing Santander and Real Zaragoza played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw. It was largely thanks to an impressive string of saves from Racing keeper Fabio Coltorti as Zaragoza got the better of a scrappy affair but were unable to make their chances count.
Tenerife improved their own chances of avoiding the drop with a fine 4-1 victory at home to Espanyol. A brace from Juan Francisco Martinez and goals from Ricardo Richi and Alfaro did the damage with Verdu hitting the reply for the visitors.
Villarreal kept up their challenge for a Europa League spot as they overcame bottom side Xerez, who are edging ever closer to the drop. Goals from Joseba Llorente and Damian Escudero in either half inflicted the defeat on the La Liga strugglers.
In Sunday’s other game Almeria got the better of fierce local rivals Malaga thanks to a goal from Fernando Soriano, to move the home side up into tenth and keep the visitors in trouble down at the Primera Division basement.
Video highlights of Sunday’s games can be found here http://www.101greatgoals.com/higuain-hat-trick-lifts-real-madrid-back-to-top-of-la-liga-messi-hat-trick-leads-barca-past-valencia-villarreal-almeria-tenerife-win-at-home/50328/