Messi humbled by Real Betis fans' standing ovation after hat-trick

LionelMessiSergioBusquets- cropped

Even the Real Betis fans were applauding by the end as Lionel Messi scored another spectacular hat-trick to fire Barcelona to a 4-1 victory on Sunday and leave them with one hand on the La Liga trophy.

Luis Suarez, whose superb flick set up Messi's second, scored his own brilliant goal after a scintillating solo run but it was ultimately reduced to a footnote, in what became another night all about his Argentinian partner.

Still, he was taken aback by the applause he received from the Betis fans.

The result sees Barca take another giant stride towards defending their La Liga crown and keeps them firmly on course for a potential treble this season. Tello's cross went behind Jese but came to the substitute Diego Lainez. "I'm very grateful to them and happy for the victory, which was very important", Messi said.

There are 10 rounds remaining, but with Messi and his teammates playing at this level and with such a large cushion of points, only a complete collapse could deny Barcelona a 26th league title and its eighth in 11 years.

It was the Chilean who won the free-kick which Messi converted to break the deadlock after 18 minutes, a sumptuous effort into the top left corner, that left Betis goalkeeper Pau Lopez with no chance. Vidal threaded through a wonderful through ball for Messi, who squared the ball for Suarez but the Uruguayan striker could only shoot tamely on his left foot straight at Lopez. "Tactically it was ideal and we did not suffer, just the opposite".

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde says Messi's treatment from the Betis fans is deserved recognition for everything he does on a football pitch.

Messi was not done there, though, and he came within inches of a fourth goal with the final action of the match when he poked the ball against the inside of the post and watched it bounce across the line and out. The Uruguay global forward, who scored a stunning solo goal, was forced off late on with an ankle sprain.

The Argentine opened scoring with a stunning 17th-minute strike that gave the league leader's an early advantage.

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