New Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane watched Gareth Bale score a hat-trick as his side deconstructed Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Barcelona grabbed a 4-0 win as Lionel Messi also bagged three against Granada in La Liga on Saturday.
The Blaugrana cruised to the points at the Camp Nou in the day's early game, but Bale gave one of the best performances of his Los Blancos career, scoring three goals in Zidane's first match in charge.
The victory sees Barcelona temporarily assume control at the top of the Spanish Primera Division, but Atletico Madrid can leapfrog them if they capture three points on Sunday.
In Saturday's other matches, Sevilla eased past Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at home, as Getafe scored a vital 1-0 win over fellow relegation candidates Real Betis. Also, Levante beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in the final match of the night.
Here are the latest results from La Liga, including updated standings after Saturday's fixtures:
|Real Madrid||5-0||Deportivo La Coruna|
|9||Deportivo La Coruna||19||6||9||4||26||23||+3||27|
Lionel Messi scored his first treble for 10 months for Barca, per Infostrada Sports, as the forward ended his longest hat-trick drought in six years.
Barca crushed their opponents 4-0 in Catalonia, with Granada no match for the reigning champions of Spain and Europe.
Messi struck twice in the opening 14 minutes, fed by the talents of Arda Turan and Luis Suarez, who both assisted the icon.
Turan's incisive pass was captured on social media:
The Argentina captain completed his hat-trick just before the hour-mark, latching onto a Neymar shot that cannoned off the post and allowed him a quick-fire finish.
Neymar added a fourth to complete the rout as the Blaugrana took the lead in the title race.
Football writer Rafael Hernandez congratulated Luis Enrique for his tactics and tipped his hat to new signing Turan:
Arda Turan already looks like a player that’s been playing at the Camp Nou for half a decade, seamless transition into the team.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) January 9, 2016
Madrid looked like themselves again after the removal of former boss Rafael Benitez, and Los Blancos shone for Zidane at home.
Karim Benzema continued his fine form as he netted in the first-half, opening the door for Bale to smash a wonderful treble effort.
The Welshman completed his hat-trick with a beautiful header from a corner shortly after the hour-mark, and the attacker continues his best-ever run of form for Madrid since his world-record transfer.
Benzema wrapped up the points with a piledriver effort in second-half injury time as Madrid ran out easy winners in an impressive five-goal display.
Presenter Kay Murray hailed Zidane's first result in charge:
In the day's other matches, Sevilla rose up the La Liga standings with a solid 2-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao in Andalusia.
Kevin Gameiro struck in both halves to claim the points for Sevillistas as the hosts took sixth spot in the table.
Getafe earned a vital 1-0 victory against Real Betis in a battle of the league's relegation candidates. A close range effort from Alvaro Vazquez was enough to claim success in the second half, giving the local fans from the Madrid suburbs something to cheer for.
The win sees the Azulones temporarily climb eight points clear of the danger zone into mid-table safety.
Both Barca and Real look ready and charged as the race moves into the second half of the season, with both teams appearing motivated and prepared for a crack at the title.
Madrid seem like a different animal under Zidane, hungry and willing to go the extra mile after being given creative freedom, but whether the Frenchman's tactics will work long-term is debatable.
Real have a soft centre—an element Benitez tried to address with little success—but if the club adheres to its history and tradition, they will do their best to outscore every opponent rather than defend in numbers.