Messi scores on return, Real, Atletico stay on top
LIONEL Messi took just three minutes to score on his return from injury as Barcelona thrashed Deportivo la Coruna 4-0 on Saturday.
But they remain two points adrift of free-scoring Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.
Yannick Carrasco's hat-trick and Nicolas Gaitan's first two goals for Atletico inspired a storming fightback by Diego Simeone's men
to flatten Granada 7-1
after falling behind early on.
Real kept pace with their city rivals with four first-half goals in a 6-1 win at
Real Betis to snap a streak
of four straight draws.
Barca were already 3-0 up thanks to Luis Suarez and a double from Rafinha when Messi was introduced after nearly a month out with a groin problem. He wasted
no time in scoring his
ninth goal of the season.
"It was a complete performance," said Barca boss Luis Enrique. "We have Leo back and it took him no time to be back in top form."
Real had dropped down to fourth due to results earlier in the day. But they roared back to a share of the lead and put a poor run behind them
with their best display of the
season to blow Betis away.
"When we play with the intensity required, it makes
it very difficult for the opponent," said a relieved Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.
"We have worked on that but we need to be consistent.
"This match is a reference point."
Real still trail Atletico on goal difference.
"The response from the team was tremendous," Atletico boss Simeone told BeIN Sports Spain.
Carrasco turned the game around before half-time, thanks in part to some
poor goalkeeping from Guillermo Ochoa.
"I'm very happy to score three goals, it is the first hat-trick of my career,"
"I already have many happy memories here at Atletico and, hopefully,
I have many more to come."