La Liga: Henry hat-trick crushes sorry Levante

September 29, 2007

MADRID, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Thierry Henry scored a hat-trick to steer Barcelona to a 4-1 win at bottom club Levante in the Primera Liga on Saturday.

The France striker had notched his first Barca goal in the 3-0 victory over Olympique Lyon in the Champions League last week and broke his Primera Liga duck with two early goals against Levante.

Henry completed his hat-trick just after the restart and almost immediately Argentina's Lionel Messi made it four.

Levante pulled one back from the penalty spot through Emilio Viqueiria but offered little threat.

Barca's first away win put them top of the table with 14 points from six games, one ahead of Real Madrid who visit struggling Getafe on Sunday.

Earlier, Real Zaragoza condemned visitors Sevilla to their fourth consecutive defeat after winning 2-0.

Argentine midfielder Andres D'Alessandro opened the scoring with a free kick early in the second half and, as Sevilla pressed, striker Sergio Garcia caught them on the break at the end.

The UEFA Cup holders, who missed enough chances to claim all three points, were beaten by Arsenal in the Champions League last week and have since lost three Primera Liga matches.

It is the first time since 1999-2000, when they were relegated, that the Andalucians have lost four on the trot.

Zaragoza climbed to eighth with eight points from six games while Sevilla slipped to 11th with six points from five.

LEAKIEST DEFENCE

It took Barcelona 17 minutes to puncture the league's leakiest defence when the home side failed to clear a corner.

Messi fired in a snapshot and Marco Storari could only parry for Henry to score at the far post.

Seven minutes later, Messi threaded a ball through for Henry who effortlessly beat Storari in a one-on-one to effectively end Levante's resistance.

After 48 minutes, Deco's deflected pass set Henry clear down the left to shoot inside the near post, and two minutes later Messi's surging run in from the right befuddled his markers as he fired into the far corner.

Barca captain Carles Puyol had appeared as a substitute at halftime, after three months out with a knee ligament injury, and gave away the penalty in the 71st minute when he fouled Levante striker Alexandre Geijo.

Midfielder Viqueira scored from the spot but Barca's fourth straight win was never in doubt.

Frank Rijkaard's side played the last five minutes with 10 men, having used all their substitutes, after Yaya Toure limped off with a thigh problem.