Madrid, Jan 13 (AP) Lionel Messi celebrated his secondstraight Ballon d''Or award by scoring a hat trick inBarcelona''s 5-0 win over Real Betis in the Copa del Reyquarterfinals, the Spanish champions'' 27th match unbeaten toequal a club record.
Messi, who took the prize ahead of teammates AndresIniesta and Xavi Hernandez on Monday, was honored before thefirst-leg match at the Camp Nou stadium yesterday. TheArgentina forward then showed why he was voted world player ofthe year.
Barcelona finally broke through against a composed Betisside in the 44th minute, Iniesta playing Messi through in aone-on-one with goalkeeper Casto Espinosa, who was caught offhis line and beaten by a lifted shot.
Espinosa and Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto stoodout in the first half with a number of important stops, butthe Betis ''keeper could do little in the 64th. After making areaction save to deny Messi, the rebound fell for the forwardto slide the ball under him into the goal.
Messi completed his hat trick in the 73rd, beating theoffside trap to reach Xavi''s pass before shooting pastEspinosa for his 31st goal of the season in all competitions.
Espinosa was helpless in the 76th despite making a savefrom Daniel Alves, who tapped the loose ball back for PedroRodriguez to send into the top of the net for his 15th goal ofthe season.
Second-division leader Betis'' strong first-halfperformance was all but a memory when substitute Seydou Keitajumped high to head home in the 83rd.
"They were especially strong in the first half, when theypressured us so well," Alves said. "But the goals came in thesecond half. I think today any debate over who deserved theBallon d''Or was settled. (Messi) deserves it."
Barcelona went 27 straight games without defeat duringthe 1973-74 season. This season''s team will be aiming tosurpass that mark and notch its 13th straight league victoryagainst Malaga this weekend.
Earlier, Alexis Ruano scored in the 88th minute asdefending champion Sevilla rallied for a 3-3 draw atVillarreal in the first leg. More (AP) PM
While Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido was suspended for the match, Cani was available after having a red cardrevoked and the midfielder opened the scoring in the 24thminute of a high-tempo game.
Cani passed to an unmarked Giuseppe Rossi in the middlebut Javi Varas saved. The loose ball eventually found Cani,who volleyed into the goal with Varas scrambling to get backinto position.
Rossi made it 2-0 fove minutres later after the Italystriker hammered a shot from outside the area from a corner,the ball taking a deflection off Alexis to leave Varas with nochance. It was Rossi''s 17th goal in all competitions thisseason.
Sevilla pulled one back when Alvaro Negredo controlledNdri Romaric''s long ball, held off Jose Manuel Catala and slida low shot past goalkeeper Juan Carlos Sanchez.
Lopez replaced Sanchez just before the restart, and MarcoRuben capped a wonderful buildup started by Lopez, leapinghigh to head Joan Capdevila''s cross past Varas in the 56th.
Lopez then stopped Negredo from point-blank soon afterbut was helpless when Romaric and Negredo combined again,Negredo heading his Ivory Coast teammate''s cross home at thefar post.
Both teams had legitimate-looking goals disallowed afterthat - Negredo for a foul and Ruben for offside - and bothpicked up a number of yellow cards as the game became morephysical before Alexis buried Romaric''s pass beyond the reachof Lopez off the post.
"The truth is we''ve made things complicated forourselves," Villarreal forward Santi Cazorla said.
Real Madrid plays Atletico Madrid and Almeria facesDeportivo La Coruna in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Thesecond legs are next week. (AP) PM