Messi, Ronaldo net hat tricks as Barca, Madrid win

JOSEPH WILSON - Associated Press
AP
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Sevilla's Emir Spahic, left, and Valencia's Jonas Gonalves from Brazil, right, vie for the ball during their La Liga soccer match at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Angel Fernandez)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi scored a dazzling hat trick to lead Barcelona to a 5-0 win over Atletico Madrid on a night when fellow Spanish league star Cristiano Ronaldo also netted three as 10-man Real Madrid downed Rayo Vallecano 6-2.

The game at Camp Nou stadium was billed as a duel between Atletico's Radamel Falcao and two-time world player of the year Messi.

But Atletico's new striker didn't touch the ball until 30 minutes in, and by then Messi had already followed up David Villa's opener by forcing an own goal by Miranda and adding a third to set Barcelona on its way to its fifth straight home win over the visitors.

Messi then went on to cap the victory with two late goals to pass Ronaldo as the league's top scorer with eight goals.

"It was a difficult game considering how well Atletico had been playing and we handled it well," said Messi, who has scored two hat tricks in five games this season. "They have a great team ... but we scored quickly and then knew how to manage the game."

Also on Saturday, Frederic Kanoute's first-half goal gave nine-man Sevilla a 1-0 win over 10-man Valencia, and Villarreal drew 1-1 at 10-man Athletic Bilbao as the Basques remained winless under new coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Barcelona and Sevilla moved one point behind leader Real Betis' 12 points, while Madrid has 10 along with Valencia.

Barca and Madrid rebounded from midweek draws with commanding wins. Yet while Barcelona overwhelmed Atletico, Madrid had lapses in concentration that almost let the newly promoted Rayo back in.

Coach Jose Mourinho tinkered with his starting 11 after Madrid was beaten at Levante and drew at Racing Santander this week. Gonzalo Higuain got his first start of the season, while Raul Albiol came into the defense alongside the 18-year-old Raphael Varane.

Rayo exposed the inexperience of the revamped backline just 12 seconds in when Miguel "Michu" Perez cut out a pass from Lassana Diarra, laid off to Raul Tamudo, and then rushed forward to score after Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas blocked Tamudo's initial strike.

Ronaldo equalized for Madrid by rifling the ball between the legs of Rayo goalkeeper Dani Gimenez in the 39th, and Higuain headed in a free kick in first-half injury time.

Ronaldo appeared to have crushed any thoughts of a Rayo comeback when he stroked home from the spot in the 51st after Javi Movilla fouled Kaka in the area, but four minutes later Madrid left Michu unmarked to tap in a corner.

The game then could have swung in the minnows' favor when Angel di Maria was shown a second yellow card for a handball.

Rayo, however, was unable to take advantage of the extra man and Varane's acrobatic shot in the 67th gave Madrid the cushion it needed.

Substitute Karim Benzema scored in the 77th, and Ronaldo converted another penalty in the 83rd after Gimenez fouled the Portugal forward in the area.

"When you have barely arrived at the game and they score, and under the circumstances we were in, everything looks more difficult," Mourinho said. "But the team reacted well and was able to improve. Later, I didn't like the 3-2 at all. We slipped and gave Rayo a chance."

In Barcelona, even though Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol were both available for the first time this season, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola opted to again push midfielders Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano back into the center of defense. And his side came close to conceding a goal in the fifth minute when Diego flashed a strike off the crossbar.

But the influential Xavi Hernandez settled the hosts' nerves when he fed Villa, who cut back and shot under Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Barcelona soon doubled their advantage in the 15th when Courtois blocked Messi's strike only for the rebound to bounce off his teammate Miranda and land in his net.

Atletico had only conceded one goal before this game, but Messi left a trio of defenders flatfooted as he used two sleek changes of direction to penetrate the right flank before whipping the ball between Courtois and the near post in the 26th.

Pique came on early in a second half that was controlled by Barcelona and, at the end, owned by Messi.

Messi showed his mastery of the ball in the 78th as he dribbled across the front of the area, leaving behind a swarm of defenders before sending his angled shot back across into the right corner of the goal.

He then finished off a pass from Villa in injury time as Barcelona stayed perfect at home.

"Leo is very fast in short distances. But you have to see Leo play to understand it," said Guardiola. "You just have to find the place to get him the ball."

On Sunday, it's: Mallorca vs. Real Sociedad, Levante vs. Espanyol, Granada vs. Osasuna, Sporting Gijon vs. Racing Santander, and Zaragoza vs. Malaga.

Betis plays Getafe on Monday.