Lionel Messi: Barcelona star responds to Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick with one of his own - his third in four games

Barcelona 5 Espanyol 1

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The Independent Football

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continued their game of one-upmanship at the weekend, with the two Ballon d'Or favourites both scoring hat-tricks in La Liga.

On Saturday evening the Real Madrid star enjoyed a record-breaking evening, scoring his 200th La Liga goal and 23rd hat-trick in Spain's top flight as Los Blancos beat Celta Vigo 3-0 at the Bernabeu.

But Messi, whose Barcelona team started their match against Espanyol five points below Real Madrid, responded with a brilliant triple of his own, after the Catalan club had fallen behind to their local rivals.

After Espanyol's Sergio Garcia opened the scoring on 13 minutes, Messi struck back either side of half-time to inspire his team.

Messi celebrates his second goal of the night

Gerard Pique and Pedro were also on target for Luis Enrique's team but it was Messi who scored his third hat-trick in two weeks, having also netted three goals against Sevilla in the league and at APOEL in the Champions League.

"Messi is a football legend," said Espanyol coach Sergio Gonzalez. "We were the better side in the first-half but Leo's goal was a tough blow. We couldn't forget it and 15 bad minutes cost us the game."

Already the club's all-time top scorer, Messi's 29th career treble for Barcelona was his 400th, 401st and 402nd goals for the club, including friendlies.

The goals took his league tally for this season to 13, behind Ronaldo's runaway total of 23.

Luis Suarez, who set up one of Messi's goals, continues to struggle in front of goal for his new club and has now gone six La Liga matches without a goal. He has scored just once in his eight games for Barcelona.

Additional reporting from AP