Lionel Messi netted a hat trick in Barcelona's 5-1 win over Rayo Vallecano Thursday, continuing his climb up La Liga's Golden Boot standings and helping Barcelona set a new Spanish record by extending its unbeaten streak to 35 games.
For his first, Messi played fellow 2015 Ballon d'Or finalist Neymar forward down the left channel before receiving a pass back in the center of the box. He finished with ease for this 17th La Liga goal of the season and his 31st in all competitions. The goal came just moments after Ivan Rakitic had scored to give Barcelona the lead, doubling Barça's edge in the 23rd minute.
Messi tallied his second of the game with the help of the post. Luis Suarez had a golden chance in the box, but he hit the right side of the woodwork. The ball ricocheted right to Messi in the center of the box, and he calmly finished to make it 3-0 for the visitors.
Messi completed his hat trick on the counterattack, getting in behind Rayo's stretched defense (the club had been reduced to nine men) and finishing on the breakaway to make it 4-1. With his three goals, he passed Neymar (18) and tied Karim Benzema for third in goals in La Liga with 19, six behind Suarez, who leads the league with 25. Cristiano Ronaldo has 23 goals and sits in second in the race for the Pichichi.
With the win, Barcelona restored its eight-point lead over Atletico Madrid in La Liga. Rival Real Madrid, which previously held Spain's unbeaten mark, is now 12 points off the pace.