Messi fires a hat trick to close gap with Pele

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Messi fires a hat trick to close gap with Pele

MADRID - Lionel Messi’s 15th La Liga hat trick lit up a nerve-jangling nine-goal thriller as Barcelona survived Javier Mascherano’s red card to win 5-4 at Deportivo Coruna to go three points clear at the top on Saturday.

Messi’s latest master class overshadowed Real Madrid’s drab 2-0 triumph at home to promoted Celta Vigo. Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty) scored the goals that lifted Jose Mourinho’s team to fourth place, eight points behind archrival Barca.

World Player of the Year Messi, who is expecting the imminent birth of his first child, has notched 71 goals for club and country in 2012. That leaves him only four short of the record set by Brazilian great Pele in 1959.

The Argentine has 11 goals in eight La Liga outings this season, two more than Ronaldo. Unbeaten Barca have 22 points, three ahead of Atletico Madrid who were scheduled to play their game in hand at Real Sociedad on Sunday night.

“He [Messi] is off to the hospital now for a happy occasion as his son is on the way,” Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta told Spanish television.

In England, Juan Mata’s double helped leaders Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 in a captivating London derby on Saturday and Wayne Rooney and Edin Dzeko both struck twice to keep Manchester United and Manchester City in hot pursuit.

Rooney marked the 10th anniversary of his wonder-goal for Everton against Arsenal as a 16-year-old with an eventful afternoon at Old Trafford.

Liverpool beat Reading 1-0, their first home league win of the season sealed by Raheem Sterling.

West Ham United thumped Southampton 4-1, Swansea City defeated Wigan Athletic 2-1 while Fulham also enjoyed a home victory, 1-0 against struggling Aston Villa.

In Germany, leaders Bayern Munich set a Bundesliga record for the best start to a season with their eighth successive win on Saturday, crushing promoted Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-0 away.

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