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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Barcelona unbeaten in record 35 games, thanks to Leo Messi hat trick

Lionel Messi scored a hat trick as Barcelona cruised to a 5-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano, who lost two players to red cards.

The Primera Division leaders restored their eight-point lead on Atletico Madrid and broke the Spanish record by completing their 35th straight game without a defeat in all competitions.

Barcelona were gifted the lead midway through the first half, when Rayo keeper Juan Carlos spilled a soft cross in front of Ivan Rakitic, who cleaned up to score the visitors' opener.

It was 2-0 a minute later as Messi played Neymar through on the wing, and the Brazilian crossed back for the Argentine to complete a tidy finish inside the near post.

Rayo went down to 10 men in the 41st minute when Diego Llorente slid into Rakitic with a high boot and saw a straight red card.

Barcelona continued to press the hosts in the second half. Luis Suarez's shot rebounded off the post directly to Messi, who tapped home to make it 3-0 in the 54th minute.

Lionel Messi's three goals helped Barcelona to their 35th straight game without a defeat.

Rayo got a goal back when Bebe headed Adri Embarba's cross back across the box for Manucho to score.

Later, Neymar's free kick hit off the crossbar but fell to Sergio Busquets. He appeared to be in an offside position when he was pulled down from behind, but the referee still sent off Manuel Iturra. However, Juan Carlos made up for his earlier error by saving the resulting penalty from Suarez.

But Rayo were still down to nine men, and Messi completed his hat trick after a long run on 72 minutes before Arda Turan added a fifth goal with a header late.

Neymar picked up a late yellow card and will miss Barcelona's next match against Eibar.

Elsewhere in Spain on Thursday, Granada took a step toward Primera Division survival after overcoming Sporting Gijon 2-0 at the Estadio Los Carmenes.

A second-half penalty by Youssef El-Arabi and an injury-time strike from Isaac Success separated the rivals in a relegation tussle that was controlled by the home team throughout.

Granada remain in the relegation zone on goal differential but swapped places with Gijon to climb into 18th place.

Real Betis won 3-0 at Espanyol to move five points clear of the relegation zone.

Ruben Castro opened the scoring in the 10th minute for the Andalusians, who extended their lead, thanks to a goal from German Pezzella on 20 minutes and Juan Vargas's 71st-minute free kick.

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