La Liga Wrap: Messi gets hat-trick as Barca crush Rayo

Barcelona thrashed a nine-man Rayo Vallecano 5-1 at the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas on Thursday evening to become the first Spanish team in history to go 35 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick, while Ivan Rakitic and Arda Turan grabbed a goal apiece in the demolition away from home.

Rayo’s assignment was made even more difficult after red cards were handed to Diego Llorente and Manuel Iturra.

The La Liga leaders opened their account through Rakitic in the 22nd minute following a howler from Rayo goalkeeper Juan Carlos, who dropped the ball into the midfielder’s path.

The floodgates opened after the first goal with Messi doubling Barcelona’s lead two minutes later after a Neymar layoff from close range.

Moments before the interval Rayo were reduced to 10 men after Llorente received a straight red card for a high tackle on Rakitic.

Messi added to Rayo’s woes as he slid the ball past the wrong-footed goalkeeper in the 54th minute for his second goal before completing his hat-trick in the 72nd minute via a tap-in.

Manucho pulled a goal back for Rayo, but things went from bad to worse for the hosts as Iturra was shown red in the 66th minute.

Turan came on as a substitute to score his first goal for the defending league champions with an 85th-minute effort.

Granada CF 2-0 Sporting de Gijon

Granada beat Sporting Gijon 2-0 in a battle of the La Liga relegation candidates at the Los Carmenes.

The basement dwellers slugged it out in a tight encounter that opened up in the second half with two goals and a red card.

Striker Youssef El Arabi scored the opening goal through a penalty in the 72nd minute, while winger Isaac Success made the game safe late one.

Sporting were reduced to 10 men when central midfielder Sergio Álvarez received his marching orders after a second yellow card in the 84th minute.

It was a physical clash typical of two clubs fighting for survival after the referee handed out a total of 12 yellow cards, and one red.

Espanyol 0-3 Real Betis 

Real Betis hammered Espanyol 3-0 with two early goals which set the tone for victory at the RCDE Stadium.

The rout came courtesy of goals from Rubén Castro (10th minute), Alejandro Pezzela (20th minute) and Juan Vargas (71st minute).

Castro got the opening goal after the ball fell kindly for him following a set piece from Pezzella from just outside the box.

Espanyol doubled their lead when Pezzella placed the ball in the left corner after combining with Charly Musonda.

Vargas rubber-stamped the dominant win away from home when his left footed free-kick curled into the top right corner past the hapless Pau Lopez.