Lionel Messi’s hat-trick fired Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday that set a record for consecutive La Liga victories of 16 and stretched their lead over Real Madrid to 10 points.
The World Player of the Year struck twice in 12 first-half minutes and again in the 79th to move two goals clear of Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the La Liga scoring charts with 24 goals.
The victory lifted the champions to 61 points from 22 matches and beat the previous best for straight league wins set by Real in the 1960-1961 season.
Villarreal earlier squandered a chance to close within three points of Real and lost their unbeaten home record when they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against promoted Levante.
The loss, their first in 12 home games this season, leaves them on 45 points, six behind Real and four ahead of fourth-placed Valencia.
Athletic Bilbao boosted their chances of a place in Europe when goals from David Lopez, Gaizka Toquero and Fernando Llorente gave them a 3-0 home win over 10-man Sporting Gijon.
The victory lifted the Basque club to fifth place on 38 points, a point above Espanyol who lost 3-2 at Almeria.
Atletico were looking to keep their hopes of European qualification alive but any prospects of derailing the Barca express were effectively snuffed out by two moments of Messi magic.
His first goal in the 17th minute was a trademark dash in from the right wing and he left several opponents trailing before arrowing a low shot past David De Gea.
David Villa slipped the ball through for Messi to score his second in the 29th. Atletico captain Antonio Lopez got a foot to the ball, but Messi burst clear and clipped a shot in off the right-hand post from close range.
The 23-year-old had a powerful header acrobatically saved by De Gea before he beat Diego Godin to a loose ball and prodded it over the line to complete a memorable treble.
“I am happy with the win against a tough team who are not going through the best time and that could have made things hard for us,” Messi told Spanish television.
In other games on Saturday, Getafe thumped Deportivo La Coruna 4-1, Real Mallorca were held to a 1-1 draw at Osasuna and Real Zaragoza and Racing Santander played out a 1-1 stalemate.
Taiwan national team manager Henry Vom on Sunday had a successful debut in charge of Taichung Futuro, winning 3-2 against league leaders Taipower with a goal deep in stoppage-time, which combined with the results from the other matches saw the gaps close at the top of the Taiwan Football Premier League table. Besides the big win for Futuro, Hang Yuan edged Taitung 1-0, Taiwan Steel dominated National Taiwan University of Sport 4-1 and the Red Lions held Ming Chuan University to a 1-1 draw. Vom took over Futuro after previous coach Toshiaki Imai returned home to Japan. Imai, who also managed the national
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
Coming from the business world, New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai (蔡崇信) did not understand why his WNBA franchise did not have a chief executive officer similar to the team’s NBA counterpart the Brooklyn Nets, which Tsai also owns. For Tsai, it was about equality, so he did something about it. The 56-year-old Taipei-born billionaire businessman and philanthropist promoted Keia Clarke to the position last week — making her the first chief executive officer in the team’s history. The WNBA veteran became the third black woman to currently be in charge of a franchise in the league, joining Los Angeles Sparks president
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational