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Messi bags third hat trick in four games

Lionel Messi scored a hat trick for the third time in his last four games, rallying Barcelona over Espanyol 5-1 Sunday night in the Catalan derby.

After Sergio Garcia scored for visiting Espanyol in the 13th minute, Messi curled in a goal in first-half injury time and put Barcelona ahead in the 50th off a cross from Luis Suarez.

Gerard Pique headed in Ivan Rakitic’s corner kick three minutes later, Pedro Rodriguez made it 4-1 in the 77th and Messi scored in the 81st for his 29th Barcelona hat trick, his 21st in La Liga.

Messi has 20 goals in 19 games this season, including 13 in the Spanish League.

Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo leads Lia Liga with 23 goals and has 29 in 21 matches overall.

Messi has 402 goals overall for Barcelona, including 28 in exhibition games.

Barcelona moved two points ahead of defending champion Atletico Madrid and trails first-place Real Madrid by two points.