Barcelona stands 10 points behind Real Madrid in the La Liga standings, and after allowing an early goal to Valencia today appeared to be playing the same uninspired soccer that's plagued Barça recently.
Then Messi appeared.
Leo fired off four straight goals in the match, and a stoppage-time goal by Xavi gave Barcelona an easy 5-1 win. It also eliminated the four-goal lead for goals in the league that had been held by Cristiano Ronaldo. It wasn't all Messi, of course—masterful passing by his teammates enabled the goals—but here's his four goals today, the final one being a chip shot so nuanced and skillful it was, to borrow a phrase from Ray Hudson, magisterial. [ESPN Deportes]
Update (8:10 p.m.): Whoops! Looks like Messi's still one behind Ronaldo.