This week marks the anniversary of three unforgettable feats by three true legends of LaLiga: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Christian Vieri.
17th March 2018
🐐 Messi draws an unforgettable standing ovation from Betis fans at the Benito Villamarin
Only the greatest players receive standing ovations from crowds away from home: Lawrie Cunningham for Real Madrid at the Camp Nou in 1980, Ronaldinho for Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2005… and of course, Lionel Messi. The Argentine’s magnificent hat-trick for Barcelona against Real Betis (his 33rd in LaLiga) handed the Blaugrana a 4-1 win and strengthened their hold on the LaLiga Santander trophy, which they would go on to retain before the end of the season.
The Barça number 10’s opener after 18 minutes was trademark bullet freekick, beating Pau Lopez high in the top right-hand corner; his second, a smart first-time finish from a neat Luis Suarez assist on the edge of the box just before the break. But it was Messi’s third and final goal, chipping Pau Lopez from an almost impossible angle from outside the box in an act of unrivalled genius, which brought Betis fans to their feet and chants of “Messi! Messi!” to ring out across the 54,000 crowd in Seville.
“I don’t remember ever being applauded by rival fans for scoring a goal before,” said Messi after the game. “I’m really grateful for the way the fans responded. I honestly don’t remember an ovation like that.”
🗓 18th March 2018
🎩 Cristiano scores his 34th and a final hat-trick in LaLiga
Cristiano Ronaldo broke almost every Real Madrid goalscoring record during his time in LaLiga, netting a whopping 308 goals in just 284 appearances and notching an incredible 34 hat-tricks along the way.
The last of those 34 hat-tricks (and the 50th of his career) came back in March 2018, against Girona at the Santiago Bernabeu. With Real Madrid keen for revenge after a shock 2-1 defeat to the recently promoted Catalans the previous October, Cristiano few out of the traps to open the scoring with a brilliant finish from a Toni Kroos cross after just 11 minutes. A neat strike just after the break and a close-range finish 15 minutes later secured his hat-trick, but Cristiano wasn’t done, knocking home his fourth in stoppage time to complete his side’s mammoth 6-3 win.
The unlucky visitors caught Cristiano in the goalscoring form of his life; his man of the match performance came in the eighth match of a twelve-game goalscoring run and just ten days before his solo demolition of Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals. He’d go on to score another two goals at the Bernabeu before leaving Real Madrid that summer – against historic rivals Atletico de Madrid and Athletic Club – but Blancos fans won’t forget this four-goal haul in a hurry.
🗓 21 March 1998
4️⃣ Christian Vieri hits four for Atletico Madrid on his way to the LaLiga top scorer title
‘Bobo’ Vieri may have only played a single season in LaLiga but he was a big hit in Spain, netting 24 goals in just 24 appearances to win the 1997/98 top scorer award. The Italy international scored his first hat-trick for Atleti just six games into the season, against Real Zaragoza in October 1997, but went one step further with an incredible four-goal haul against Salamanca in March 1998.
Three penalty area goals befitting of a world-class striker and a penalty would usually be enough to secure a win on the road, but this was no normal season for Atleti; a 90th minute Salamanca goal consigned Radomir Antic’s side to a dramatic 5-4 defeat.
Atleti went on to finish seventh, with a side featuring Vieri and the likes of Juninho Paulista and Milinko Pantic, just one year on from securing a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double in 1995/96. ‘Bobo’ left the club that summer, returning to Italy with Lazio after the 1998 World Cup in a deal worth an estimated €25million.
Back to the present, and Barcelona faces Huesca this evening at the Camp Nou with the Catalans looking to cut the gap at the top to just four points.
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