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Messi hits half century of hat-tricks to down Sevilla

Messi hits half century of hat-tricks to down Sevilla
Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Sevilla v FC Barcelona - Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville, Spain - February 23, 2019 Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their third goal to complete his hat-trick REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo Copyright MARCELO DEL POZO(Reuters)
Copyright MARCELO DEL POZO(Reuters)
By Reuters
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SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) - Lionel Messi scored a 50th career hat-trick to fire Barcelona to a 4-2 win at Sevilla on Saturday after the champions had twice fallen behind, giving the Catalans a 10-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Sevilla, who have only won once in the league in 2019, took the lead midway through the first half through veteran winger Jesus Navas but were soon pegged back by an unstoppable volley from Messi.

The home side capitalised on sleepy defending from Barca to re-take the lead before halftime as Gabriel Mercado pounced in the area.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde made two attacking changes at the start of the second period by introducing Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto and got the intended reaction when the France winger laid the ball off to Messi just inside the area and the Argentine lashed it into the top corner.

Messi, who has struggled for form in recent weeks due to a niggling injury, looked on a mission to grab the winner and after twice coming close he completed his treble to put Barca ahead in the 85th minute, reacting quickly to a poor Sevilla clearance to dink the ball over goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.

Luis Suarez made sure of the points by scoring deep in stoppage time, chipping Vaclik after being played through by a pass from Messi.

Barca lead the standings on 57 points after 25 games while second-placed Atletico Madrid have 47 but can reduce the gap back to seven when they host Villarreal on Sunday.

Sevilla fell to fifth, slipping out of the Champions League places behind Getafe.

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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