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Messi hits four as Barcelona respond in kind

Lionel Messi struck four goals on his 200th Liga appearance as FC Barcelona came from behind to beat Valencia CF 5-1 and cut Real Madrid CF's lead at the top back to ten points.

Lionel Messi was in imperious form once again
Lionel Messi was in imperious form once again ©Getty Images

Lionel Messi celebrated his 200th Liga appearance with four goals in a 5-1 win against Valencia CF which moved FC Barcelona back to within ten points of leaders Real Madrid CF.

Beaten 3-2 by CA Osasuna last weekend and in need of a response to Madrid's 4-0 victory against Real Racing Club on Saturday, Barcelona's task became harder when Pablo Piatti gave Valencia a ninth-minute lead at Camp Nou.

The hosts pulled level through Messi midway through the first half, though, and the Argentina forward took just five minutes to add his second. He then struck twice more in the closing 14 minutes to reach 27 league goals this term, one adrift of the Liga's leading marksman Cristiano Ronaldo. Xavi Hernández added Barça's fifth late on.

As for Athletic Club, they lie fifth after coasting to a 3-0 win against Málaga CF, Fernando Amorebieta, Mikel San José and Gaizka Toquero doing the damage for the hosts. Club Atlético de Madrid are sixth following their 1-1 draw at Real Sporting de Gijón, with Levante UD down to seventh as a 5-3 loss to Rayo Vallecano de Madrid extended their winless league run to eight games.

Second-bottom Gijón are six points adrift of safety, where Villarreal CF lie after losing 4-0 at RCD Mallorca. Granada CF are two points better off than the Yellow Submarine thanks to a 4-1 triumph against Real Sociedad de Fútbol, themselves only four points off the drop zone.