Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to lead FC Barcelona to a 4-3 win over Real Madrid in Sunday's El Clasico, blowing the La Liga title race wide open.
A record-breaking equalising goal just before half-time erased a brace from Karim Benzema, as Stan Collymore of talkSPORT reported:
MESSI THE KING OF EL CLASICO RECORD BREAKING 19TH GOAL— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) March 23, 2014
Here's the record clincher, thanks to Messi Left Foot:
Andres Iniesta opened the scoring for the Blaugrana, and with both teams tied at two goals apiece, Cristiano Ronaldo was fouled on the edge of the box to give hosts Real a penalty.
Replays suggested Ronaldo may have been fouled just outside the penalty box, but that didn't stop the Portuguese winger from converting the spot-kick himself.
But a foul from Sergio Ramos on Brazilian forward Neymar gave Barcelona a penalty of their own, which Messi converted to pull his team level once again.
With Ramos also red-carded, Barca now pushed for a winning goal, and with less than 10 minutes left to play, yet another penalty gave the top goalscorer in Clasico history a chance to gift his team the win.
Here's the vine, courtesy of Football Vertex:
Messi's Penalty to make it 4-3 to Barca! https://t.co/iYeHDSW9a1— Football Vertex (@Football_Vertex) March 23, 2014
Making full use of the man-advantage, Barcelona held on to the one-goal lead to secure the three points at the Bernabeu.
Despite the early assist, Messi looked a little shaky early in the game, missing a clear-cut chance that was very unlike him. ESPN FC chimed in:
Messi pulls a shot wide from inside the box. He is human after all.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 23, 2014
A free-kick that went flying squarely into the wall didn't help either, as fans started to get a little rowdy:
Who can hit the wall better? Xavi or Messi? Evenly tied so far. #fcblive— FCB Fan Drivel (@fcbfandrivel) March 23, 2014
As you might expect, three goals later the mood had somewhat changed:
Messi is the best there was,the best there is and the best there ever will be....King!god!Legend #MTNFootball— Mamah (@MrsMUFC) March 23, 2014
Oddschanger informed us the all-time Clasico goalscoring record wasn't the only remarkable feat of Messi's night:
FACT: Lionel Messi is the first EVER Barcelona player to score an #ElClásico hat-trick at Bernabéu.— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) March 23, 2014
The big battle within the match was, of course, the one between arguably the two best players in all of football, Messi and Ronaldo. According to Football Vines, the winner was clear:
Messi walking up to Ronaldo after the game https://t.co/rxaSuP46iV— Football Vines (@FootballVines) March 23, 2014
Footballplanet made it very clear how they felt after watching the performance:
Well done Messi. You are the world's best. #ASG_fp— Football Planet (@iFootballPlanet) March 23, 2014
With the win, Barcelona have now closed the gap with Real and Atletico Madrid to a single point at the top of the league table, with Real holding the advantage over Atletico on goal difference and Barcelona having the tie-breaker over Real.
Thanks to Messi's three wonderful goals, the 2013-14 La Liga title race is far from over. In fact, it's only just beginning.