Magic Messi sinks Atletico
Barca in pole position to reach last eight
Last Updated: 06/01/09 9:02pm
Messi celebrates his treble
Lionel Messi's superb hat-trick inspired Barcelona to a 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their last 16 Copa del Rey tie at Vicente Calderon.
The Argentine schemer was at his brilliant best in front of the onlooking Diego Maradona to all but book Barca's passage into the quarter-finals.
Barca broke the deadlock after just 12 minutes with a superb goal from Messi.
Messi played a wonderful one-two with Dani Alves with the Brazilian finding his team-mate with a clever back-heel to send him clear on goal and Messi comfortably slotted his shot under Gregory Coupet.
Atletico's task got even harder just before the hour mark when Johnny Heitinga was sent off for conceding a penalty in tripping Messi.
Messi stepped up and sent Coupet the wrong way from the spot to put Barca in firm control of the tie.
Atletico gave themselves hope on 69 minutes when Tomas Ujfalusi headed home Simao Sabrosa's corner.
Messi came agonisingly close to adding a third on 79 minutes when he weaved his way past three Atletico defenders in a superb run only to see his shot thunder off the crossbar.
However, seconds later Messi was not to be denied as he broke the Atletico offside trap and coolly rounded Coupet before slotting into the empty net.