Messi got a hat trick at the Bernabéu.

Messi got a hat trick at the Bernabéu. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

This was an unforgettable game. Just as they did in 2009, 2010 and 2012, Barça took three points from the Santiago Bernabeu to blow the league title race wide open. Di María and Benzema looked to have claimed glory, but in the end it was Leo Messi, with yet another hat trick who took the plaudits as Barça won an action packed and enthralling contest.

The intense start gave due notice that we were in for a special night, Madrid laid down their marker with some aggressive pressing, but it was Barça who got the opener, when Messi slipped a clever ball through to Iniesta on the left and the Spanish midfielder smashed home past Diego Lopez. Benzema then missed a great chance to equalise on 12 minutes before Messi and Neymar both had the opportunity to put the visitors even further ahead.

Madrid were working the left flank as they tried to get in behind the Barça defence and Di Maria linked up brilliantly with Benzema for two quick goals to turn the game around on 20 and 25 minutes. Soon after, the Frenchman nearly got a first half hat trick, only for Piqué to clear off the line. As the half drew to an end, the pace dropped a bit until a lovely piece of skill in the box gave Messi the equaliser after good work in the box from Neymar. There was a bit of argy bargy between Pepe and Cesc after the goal and there was even time for Benzema to fluff yet another great chance before the break.

Three penalties

Barça improved their possession at the start of the second half, as Madrid looked to their own more direct game, which appeared to be paying dividends as Valdes was called on to save from Benzema and Ronaldo then won a dodgy looking penalty after Alves appeared to have brought him down outside the box(54 minutes).

At 3-2 up, Madrid’s confidence began to grow, but just past the hour mark Ramos brought Neymar down as he was haring in on goal and the ref had no doubts about awarding the penalty and sending the Madrid defender off. Messi put the spot kick away and Benzema was replaced by Varane, as Ancelloti aimed to secure at least a point. Martino responded by bringing on Pedro for Neymar.

Now Barça saw the chance to pounce and with Madrid sitting ever deeper, Alves nearly put the visitors ahead on 73 minutes with a pile driver that came back off the woodwork, but the winner finally came on 84 minutes when Iniesta was brought down in the area and Messi again silenced the Madrid crowd, hitting home the penalty to mark yet another hat trick and yet another epic victory at the Bernabeu.

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