MADRID, March 16- Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to become Barcelona’s all-time record goalscorer as they cut the gap on La Liga leaders Real Madrid to four points ahead of their meeting next weekend with a 7-0 thrashing of Osasuna.
After a slow start, the hosts were sparked into life by Messi’s opening goal as he flicked home at the near post from Alexis Sanchez’s cross.
Sanchez was next on the scoresheet as he finished off a similar move involving Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba before Iniesta’s wonderful strike from 25 yards made it 3-0.
Messi then broke another record by registering his 370th Barca goal to overtake Paulinho Alcantara as the club’s record marksman before rounding off his hat-trick in between further strikes from Cristian Tello and Pedro Rodriguez.
“The victory is very important because we remain four points behind Madrid,” Sanchez told Canal Plus.
“We played a great game and I am happy with my performance as I scored and provided an assist.”
Next up for Barcelona is a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu next Sunday and Sanchez is sure they can get themselves back into the title race by ending Madrid’s five-month unbeaten run in all competitions.
“I think we can beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and that would put us right in the fight for La Liga.
“Both teams will see themselves as favourites, they are the two biggest clubs in the world and it will be a great game. We are going to the Bernabeu with only the intention of winning.”
Amazingly, Barca had to withstand a bright opening from Osasuna as Victor Valdes produced a great save to deny Emiliano Armenteros and Oriol Riera was rightly flagged offside as he put the rebound into the net.
However, the Catalans opened the scoring 10 minutes later when Sanchez was fed by Xavi and Messi got across his man to delicately touch home the Chilean’s low cross.
Sanchez should have doubled his side’s advantage two minutes later when he chipped over with just Andres Fernandez to beat, but the former Udinese man made amends when he side-footed home after a lovely one-two between Alba and Iniesta opened up the Osasuna defence.
Iniesta then made it 3-0 with just his second goal of the season 11 minutes before half-time with a sweetly struck left-footed effort that flew into the top corner.
Fernandez was forced into fine saves from Dani Alves and Xavi to ensure Barca didn’t go in even further ahead at the break.
Osasuna should have got themselves back in the game early in the second-half as Riera and Roberto Torres failed to hit the target when presented with clear sights of goal.
They were soon further behind, though, as Messi slammed home Iniesta’s cut-back just after the hour mark to surpass Alcantara’s 369 goals in 357 games between 1912 and 1927.
Substitute Tello got his side’s fifth goal with virtually his first touch as he whipped the ball into the far corner from just outside the area.
Messi fittingly sealed his hat-trick as he received Dani Alves’ pass before easily side-footing in from close range for his 31st goal of the season.
And Messi then teed up Pedro to make it 7-0 in stoppage time with a neat low finish past Fernandez.