Rayo Vallecano 1-5 Barcelona: Lionel Messi nets hat-trick in record-breaking win
By Nick Lustig
Last Updated: 04/03/16 10:02am
Barcelona claimed a 5-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano on Thursday night to become the first Spanish team in history to go 35 matches unbeaten in all competitions.
Ivan Rakitic (22) set Barca on their way to victory, capitalising on an error from Rayo goalkeeper Juan Carlos, before Lionel Messi (23) doubled their advantage.
Rayo were reduced to 10-men shortly before the break after Diego Llorente was a shown a straight red card for his challenge on Rakitic and Barca made their extra man count with Messi (53, 72) completing his hat-trick with strikes either side of a Manucho (57) consolation.
Manuel Iturra also saw red for Rayo and Luis Suarez missed a penalty before Arda Turan (86) wrapped up the scoring with his first goal for Barca.
Victory ensured Barca stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points, while Rayo drop a place to 17th after suffering their first league defeat in seven games.
Luis Enrique's side have not tasted defeat in the league since October 3, when they suffered a 2-1 loss away at Sevilla.
Barca initially struggled to get into their stride at Campo de Futbol de Vallecas, with Rayo coming closest during the opening exchanges, but Ardi Embarba was denied by a fine save from Barca goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
However, the home side failed to build on their bright start and gifted Barca the opener with Carlos dropping a routine cross at the feet of Rakitic, who made no mistake by sweeping the ball into an empty net.
Barca increased their advantage just two minutes later, Messi firing past Carlos after exchanging passes with Neymar.
It got worse for Rayo shortly before the break after Llorente received his marching orders, despite appearing to win the ball first in a challenge with Rakitic.
After the interval, Messi piled further punishment on Rayo, following up to score after Suarez had seen his effort cannon back off the post.
Rayo grabbed a goal back through former Manchester United forward Manucho, but any hope of an unlikely comeback was extinguished when Iturra was shown a straight red card for hauling back Sergio Busquets in front of goal.
Though Suarez saw his penalty stopped superbly by Carlos, Messi completed his hat-trick soon after when he slotted past the advancing Rayo goalkeeper.
Substitute Turan rounded off a perfect evening for Barcelona and Enrique by scoring his first goal for the club, heading Jeremy Mathieu's cross into the top corner.