Messi saves Barcelona while Ronaldo enjoys Real romp


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The Independent Football

Barcelona needed an equaliser in added time at the end of the second half from Lionel Messi to preserve their unbeaten record in La Liga last night as the European Champions fought out a highly spirited 2-2 draw with Athletic Bilbao.

In a game played in heavy rain on a sodden pitch at San Mames, Barça looked to be sliding to defeat when a freak own goal from Gerard Pique made it 2-1 with 10 minutes to go. However, Messi capitalised on confusion in the home defence to score into an empty net to earn a draw that leaves Pep Guardiola's side three points behind the leaders Real Madrid.

Earlier Real romped to another ridiculously comfortable victory as Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score four hat-tricks in the first 11 weeks of the season in a 7-1 win over Osasuna.

In an effort to compete with the Premier League for the Asian audience, it was the first time Real had ever kicked off a home game at midday. And although China's Spanish coach, Jose Camacho, reported from Beijing that national television was showing female volleyball instead of the big game, the home fans filled the Bernabeu and went home happy, having seen the club's 10th straight win.

Ronaldo now has 11 hat-tricks in the Spanish league. No one had achieved such a feat since Ferenc Puskas 48 years ago. The Portuguese international now has 13 goals this season. He is closely followed by Gonzalo Higuain with 11 and Karim Benzema with six – both scored two in the rout of Osasuna, who also had Eneko Satrustegui sent off for bringing down Mesut Ozil in the area.

Madrid were able to give summer signing Nuri Sahin his debut in the second half, having nursed him through a knee injury that has kept him out since April, but they lost Angel Di Maria with a torn hamstring that will rule him out of international duty.

It was the first time in nine years that Jose Mourinho had won 10 consecutive matches and he was asked afterwards if he believed he could get anywhere near Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year stay at Old Trafford. He said: "To manage even a quarter of that would be incredible. Alex Ferguson is a special case, Manchester United is a special club, English football is special and the sports press are special. Here, with the way the clubs have to constantly keep winning, it could not happen."

The season's surprise package Levante suffered a second successive defeat, 2-0 at home in the Valencia derby.

In Italy the big game of the weekend, between Napoli and the leaders Juventus, was postponed due to flooding.