BARCELONA: Lionel Messi handed departing coach Pep Guardiola a perfect Camp Nou send off by scoring all four goals as outgoing Spanish champions Barcelona thrashed neighbours Espanyol 4-0.
This was Guardiola’s final home game in charge after four years before he makes way for his assistant Tito Vilanova.
Messi was again magnificent as he moved on to 72 goals in what has been a remarkable season – a record-busting 50 of which have come in La Liga. He now has 251 in 327 Barcelona appearances.
The Argentinian opened the scoring with a free-kick and completed his hat-trick with a trademark burst and finish. Goals two and four were from contentiously-awarded penalties.
Champions-elect Real Madrid shook off their title-winning hangover to beat relegation-threatened Granada 2-1. Franco Jara put Granada ahead after only five minutes but Madrid recovered in a 10-minute spell which Cristiano Ronaldo winning and converting an equalising penalty then David Cortes deflecting a stoppage-time cross from Karim Benzema into his own goal.
Granada’s furious players surrounded police-protected referee Clos Gomez at the final whistle when both Cortes and Borja Perez were shown red cards.
The relegation fight will thus go to the final weekend with five teams jostling to avoid the two relegation spots still available.
Second-bottom Sporting Gijon are in most danger, three points behind Real Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecano. Villarreal and Granada are also not yet safe.
Valencia will finish third after beating Villareal 1-0 while Atletico Madrid moved within two points of fourth-placed Malaga by defeating them 2-1.
Getafe claimed a goalless draw away to Spanish Cup and Europa League finalists Athletic Bilbao.
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