Ronaldo nets 2 as Real wins; Messi hits 3 in Barca victory
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi scored goals in bunches on Sunday as leader Real Madrid stayed one point ahead of Barcelona with the Spanish league reaching its halfway point.
Ronaldo netted a second-half brace as Real won 3-0 at Getafe, while Messi struck his 30th career hat trick for Barcelona to spearhead its 4-0 rout at Deportivo La Coruna.
Ronaldo took his league-leading tally to 28 goals. Messi trails his rival forward with 19.
Defending champion Atletico Madrid did its part to stay in the title race and set up a promising second half of the season by beating bottom side Granada 2-0, remaining in third place, four points behind Real.
Real still has a game in hand to be played next month against Sevilla, which also stayed in the hunt in fourth by beating Malaga 2-0 to remain the league’s only unbeaten home team.
Real started slowly three days after its defense of the Copa del Rey title was ended by Atletico, but its talented attack eventually came through after light snow fell on the Alfonso Perez Coliseum.
Ronaldo was particularly subdued until Karim Benzema dribbled to the end line and used a skillful change of foot to open a passing angle and set up the Portugal forward to net from close range in the 63rd minute.
Gareth Bale sprinted forward to redirect James Rodriguez’s long ball with the outer edge of his left foot to double the advantage four minutes later.
Rodriguez continued to excel as Real’s playmaker when he spotted Ronaldo calling for the ball and swerved in a perfectly placed cross for the Ballon d’Or winner to head home in the 79th.
After its exit from the cup, Carlo Ancelotti’s team was under pressure to have a strong showing with only one win in four matches to start 2015 after finishing last year on a Spanish record 22-win streak.
“We didn’t come back from Christmas in the best shape,” Ancelotti said. “James (Rodriguez) played an extraordinary game. He is getting back to his top form. Little by little the entire team is recovering its best form.”
Bale ended the match limping, but Ancelotti said it was only a “knock.”
Messi tormented Deportivo from kickoff, drawing a save from goalkeeper Fabricio Agosto seconds before Ivan Rakitic met his run with a lobbed pass over the defense that the Argentina forward headed over Agosto in the 10th.
Messi got his second in the 33rd by chipping the ball over Agosto when Neymar’s pass for Luis Suarez fell to him at the six-yard box.
And his third came in the 62nd after Deportivo’s defense made the mistake of letting Messi enter the area with the ball pegged to his left boot. He wasted little time in picking his spot and firing an unstoppable strike inside the far post.
“Messi has been playing at a very high level all season, he hasn’t dipped at any moment,” said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who has been at the center of media reports saying his relationship with the team’s all-time scorer had soured. “Messi is a world class star.”
Barcelona was gifted its fourth with seven to play when Alberto Lopo’s clearance hit teammate Sidnei and bounced into their goal.
Atletico striker Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring at the Vicente Calderon Stadium when he converted a penalty kick in the 34th after Diego Godin was fouled by Abdoul Sissoko.
Substitute Raul Garcia used his back to bump Arda Turan’s pass into the net to cap the victory two minutes from time.
Playing its first game under interim coach Joseba Aguado following the firing of Joaquin Caparros, Granada recorded its 15th straight round without a win to remain at the foot of the standings.
Getafe and Deportivo were one point above the relegation zone.
Sevilla’s Carlos Bacca scored from Gerard Deulofeu’s exquisite pass in the 36th before the striker worked a brilliant one-two combination with Denis Suarez for the midfielder to hit in the 68th.
Elsewhere, Elche edged 10-man Levante 1-0 after Jonathas scored following David Navarro’s receiving a red card in the fifth. Both Levante’s Diego Marino and Elche ’keeper Przemyslaw Tyton saved penalties.