Valverde admits Messi's brilliance transcends rivalries after Betis ovation

Lionel Messi scored a stunning hat-trick to fire Barcelona 10 points clear at the top of the La Liga table courtesy of a 4-1 victory over Real Betis this evening.

Everyone who watched Real Betis 1-4 Barcelona was left speechless by yet another virtuoso display from five-time Ballon d'Or victor Lionel Messi.

"It was a very good chance to increase our distance at the top, we knew about Atletico's result and we couldn't afford to not take it", he said. "We had to take it tonight". He added a second goal just before halftime from a pass by Luis Suarez, who scored a fine goal of his own midway through the second half. All Real Betis fans could do was stand and applaud the brilliant effort.

"I don't ever remember a night like this [being applauded by rival supporters]", he told Movistar after taking his goal tally for the season in all competitions to 39.

This was supposed to be one of the more awkward tests in Barcelona's run-in, which includes Atletico Madrid at home and fifth-placed Alaves away.

Manchester United provide a tough assignment in the quarter-finals of the Champions League but treble talk will intensify now regardless of how often Ernesto Valverde plays down his side's chances.

More news: New Zealand Picks Up the Pieces After Christchurch Massacre

There was barely a moment to pause for breath in the first half, both teams throwing players forward without restraint or, seemingly, regard for the spaces they left at the back.

Betis were looking every bit as threatening as their visitors, though, and it took some fine last-ditch defending from Barcelona to keep them at bay shortly before the half-hour mark as they peppered the box with risky crosses.

Barca were perhaps fortunate to earn the free-kick for Messi's opener as Canales obstructed Arthur Melo just outside the area, to the right of centre.

It was Betis that got the game's fourth goal, though, as Jordi Alba failed to deal with a low cross from the left and Diego Lainez teed up Loren, who curled his finish past Ter Stegen and into the top corner.

"Almost every week (Messi) plays at such an wonderful level", said Betis coach Quique Setien.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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