Copa del Rey: Messi treble sinks Atlético

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Lionel Messi scored three times to lead Barcelona to a 3-1 win over 10-man Atlético Madrid in the first leg of their last 16 Copa del Rey tie at Vicente Calderón.

Barcelona took the lead after just 12 minutes courtesy of a wonderful one-two between Messi and right back Daniel Alves.

Messi fed the ball into Alves on the edge of the area and then raced on to the Brazilian's clever back-heel before calmly slotted his shot under Grégory Coupet.

Atlético's task got even harder just before the hour mark when Johnny Heitinga was sent off for bringing down Messi inside the area as the Argentine ran to meet Alves' right cross.

Messi stepped up and sent Coupet the wrong way from the spot to put Barça in firm control of the tie.

Atlético pulled a goal back on 69 minutes when Tomáš Ujfaluši, who had replaced Paulo Assunção six minutes earlier, headed home Simão Sabrosa's inswinging corner.

Messi came close to his a third in the 79th minute when he rattled the bar after a mazy run past three Atlético defenders.

However, seconds later Messi was not to be denied as he was found by Andrés Iniesta's chip and the forward evaded Coupet before slotting home his third goal.

The second leg of the quarterfinals match will be next Wednesday at Camp Nou where Barcelona will be expected to advance in a competition they have won 24 times, but not since 1998.

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