Record-breaking Messi takes Barça top as Real come unstuck
Lionel Messi scored a customary hat-trick – his sixth in the last four months – as Barcelona returned to the top of La Liga with a 6-1 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano.
The Argentine’s three second-half goals represented his 32nd treble in all competitions for the hosts, surpassing Telmo Zarra’s Spanish record. He also moved clear of Cristiano Ronaldo in league hat-tricks (24) and passed the 40-goal mark for a sixth consecutive season. Luis Suarez (two) and Gerard Pique scored the other goals as Barça made the most of Real Madrid’s defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Real trail by a point ahead of the Clasico match-up at the Nou Camp on Sunday week.
Paris St-Germain warmed up for Wednesday’s Champions League visit to Chelsea with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Lens on Saturday. David Luiz and Zlatan Ibrahmovic, from the spot, put the hosts ahead before late efforts from substitutes Blaise Matuidi and Javier Pastore.
Thomas gets Sky off to Paris-Nice flier
Geraint Thomas gave Team Sky a solid start to Paris-Nice as he claimed a top-10 finish in the opening prologue. Thomas completed the 6.7km stage around Maurepas in 7 minutes 54 seconds to finish 10th, 14 seconds behind winner Michal Kwiatkowski. Former race winners Sir Bradley Wiggins and Richie Porte finished a second behind their Sky team-mate, in 12th and 13th places respectively.
Second-tier side will make Cup final
This season’s Scottish Cup final will feature at least one second-tier side after Hibernian were paired with Falkirk in yesterday’s semi-final draw. The teams, who meet at Hampden Park on 18/19 April, compete to face Inverness/Raith or Celtic/Dundee United in May’s showpiece.
West Brom hit out over pitch invasion
West Bromwich Albion yesterday voiced their “deep concern” over the pitch invasion at Aston Villa that marred the end of the sides’ FA Cup meeting on Saturday.
Home fans ran on to the playing surface during and after the match, taunting rival players. “Pitch invasions cannot be tolerated under any circumstances,” a club statement read. “The safety of the club’s players and staff... was clearly compromised.”
Houghton out of Cyprus Cup final
England captain Steph Houghton will be out for up to 10 weeks with a damaged knee. The injury, picked up in Friday’s 3-0 win over Australia, will rule the 26-year-old out of next month’s game against China as well as their final Cyprus Cup group game against the Netherlands today and Wednesday’s final. She will miss the start of Manchester City’s Super League campaign on 29 March but should be fit for June’s World Cup.