A hat-trick is a rare accomplishment in itself.
But three in one weekend in two of the most competitive leagues on the planet? Now that is quite rare indeed.
The very short list included Chelsea's Fernando Torres (Spain) and Liverpool's Luis Suarez (Uruguay), who warmed up for Saturday's English F.A. Cup final, and Lucas Barrios (Paraguay), as they did their goal-scoring in triplicate.
Torres, who has been criticized for grossly underachieving after joining the Blues after an $80 million transfer from Liverpool last year, climaxed his most productive week in months, if not years, as he hit for three goals in a 6-1 rout of Queens Park Rangers.
Last Tuesday, the Spaniard scored late to put the finishing touches of Chelsea's UEFA Champions League win at Barcelona.
On Sunday, Torres tallied twice in the opening half and once in the final 45 minutes. His last hat-trick was for Liverpool in September, 2009.
After Daniel Sturridge and John Terry (off an assist by Spaniard Juan Mata) scored after 49 seconds and the 13th minute, respectively, Torres took center stage in the 19th minute when he put home Salomon Kalou's pass and rounded the goalkeeper. Six minutes later he struck for this second goal. Torres completed his hat-trick, putting in Mata's pass in the 64th minute for his 11th goal of the season.
Suarez, who has endured a controversial season himself with Liverpool -- accused of racially abusing Patrice Evra in October -- scored all of the Reds' three goals in his first hat-trick for the team in a 3-0 win at Norwich City. The Uruguayan struck twice within a four-minute span in the first half and finished off his scoring in style -- with a 50-yard lob.
"Every goal was a great goal but it's not a surprise because of the quality of the player he is," Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said. "I don't have a catalogue of the best hat-tricks ever, but certainly it was a fantastic hat-trick. But when you have got people of his ability there are no surprises.
"He is a fantastic footballer and a fantastic person. We are very fortunate to have him playing for us. And when he plays like that it is very difficult for anyone to stop him."
Barrios beat the aforementioned players to the hat-trick punch in Borussia Dortmund's 5-2 win at last-place and relegated Kaiserslautern on Saturday, a result that brought the team's unbeaten run to a Bundesliga record of 27 games.
After a 16th-minute own goal by the hosts, Barrios struck for a brace during an eight-minute span for a 2-1 advantage and the visitors never looked back. Barrios sent a backward header into the net off a Patrick Owomoyela cross in the 18th minute before slamming home a low cross from Ivan Perisic in the 26th minute. Barrios completed his treble in the 55th minute.
While no Argentine could secure a hat-trick, no less than 11 players from that South American country found the back of the net over the weekend.
Javier Hernandez, Antonio Valencia, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez
Manchester United takes a three-point lead over second-place Manchester City entering Monday's derby confrontation at Etihad Stadium (Fox Soccer Channel, 2:30 p.m. ET). City, which boasts the likes of Argentine standouts Aguero and Tevez, needs a win to remain alive. A tie would solidify United's hold on the lead and a win would virtually clinch its second consecutive crown. United has Chicharito (Mexico) and Valencia (Ecuador).
Franco Di Santo, Fabrco Coloccini
These two Argentine rivals had different fates in Wigan's 4-0 stunning win over Newcastle United, which helped the former's hopes of avoiding relegation and hindered the hopes of the latter’s chances of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. Coloccini, a Newcastle defender, botched a clearance attempt in the 15th minute as Victor Moses scored his second goal of the match, only two minutes after his first. Di Santo collected the fourth goal of the opening half, putting home a curling shot from outside the penalty area in stoppage time.
Messi scored two goals and had a hand in four others as Barcelona cruised past Rayo Vallencano, 7-0, in La Liga. The Argentine standout tallied his 43rd goal of the Spanish season and 65th overall to spark Barca on its way. Despite the big victory, Real Madrid moved closer to its first league crown in four years behind a 3-0 win over Sevilla. French standout Karim Benzema had a brace after Portuguese international Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first goal for Real, which has found the back of the net a record 112 times this season. Real can clinch its 32nd league crown with a victory at Europa League finalists Atheltic Bilboa on Wednesday, regardless what Barca does against Malaga at home.
Trejo, an Argentine, tallied in the second half for Sporting Gijon in its 3-0 win at Espanol, the team’s third win in four matches.
Only two minutes after Real Betis took the lead in the 88th minute, the Colombian headed home the equalizer -- his 23rd league goal -- to give Atletico Madrid a 2-2 draw.
The Mexican international midfielder Andres Guardado did not travel with Deportivo de la Coruna for its 2-0 loss at Almeria in Spanish Second Division. Guardado sat out the match with a hamstring injury. Deportivo (24-8-3, 75 points) remained five points in front of Real Valladolid (20-5-10, 70) with seven games remaining in the season.
The Chilean midfielder struck for the third goal in Juventus' 4-0 romp over Novara. Five minutes into the second half, Vidal knocked home a rebound of Mirko Vucinic's shot. Juve and Vidal can clinch the Serie A crown if the team beats Lecce and A.C. Milan loses to Atalanta on Wednesday.
Gaston Ramirez, Rodrigo Palacio
Ramirez, a Uruguayan midfielder, scored a crucial goal for Bologna in its 3-2 triumph over Genoa, just about ensuring the side remaining in Serie A next season. After Daniele Portanova scored in the 24th minute, Ramirez connected in the 37th minute to give Bologna a 2-0 halftime lead. But Genoa made Bologna sweat as Palacio, an Argentine forward, found the back of the net in the 59th minute.
Edinson Cavani, Juan Zuniga
Napoli's 2-2 draw at Roma was dominated by South Americans. Cavani, a Uruguayan striker, gave the visitors a 2-1 lead with a brilliant, 25-yard free kick in the 67th minute. After Roma grabbed a 1-0 lead on Brazilian Marquinho's goal in the 41st minute, Zuniga, a Colombian leveled the game in the 49th minute. Brazilian Simplicio struck for a late equalizing goal for Roma.
The Argentinean, a second-half sub, scored the insurance goal in second-half stoppage time in Udinese's 2-0 win over Lazio after the opponent's defense stopped playing.
Denis, yet another Argentine, scored his 16th goal of the season in the 11th minute to start Atalanta on its way to a 2-0 victory over Fiorentina to move into ninth place.
Alejandro Gomez, Pablo Barrientos
The Argentines combined for Catania's lone goal in the 25th minute in its 1-1 draw in its Sicilian derby with Palermo. Gomez's cross appeared to be going out of bounds, but Barrientos dived for the ball and managed to head the ball to Nicola Legrottaglie, who headed it in for a goal.
The Argentine scored from six yards off a corner kick to break a 1-1 deadlock and lift Parma to a 2-1 win at Lecce.
Zarate, an Argentine and second-half sub, scored the game-winner in the 72nd minute to boost Inter Milan to a 2-1 triumph over Cesena.
Raul, Jefferson Farfan
Raul, a former Spanish international striker, scored in the 84th minute as Schalke 04 routed Hertha Berlin, 4-0. After the game, Schalke awarded the Peruvian striker received a four-year extension of his contract. Farfan, 27, who suffered a knee injury in November, has scored four goals in 22 matches.
The Argentine striker tallied in the 29th minute to lift Lyon to a 1-0 triumph over Third Division Quevilly to capture the Coupe de France. After Lopez had a shot bounce off goalkeeper Yassine El Kharroubi in the ninth minute, he finally found the net 20 minutes later. With Alexandre Lacazette rushing down the right flank, El Kharroubi came out of the net to cut down the angle. However, Lacazette crossed to Lopez, who half-volleyed his shot into an empty goal.
Pastore's header in the 47th minute was Paris Saint Germain's lone goal in its 2-1 loss to defending champion Lille. The Argentine headed home a Kevin Gameiro cross to give PSG a one-goal lead, but it couldn't hold it. PSG trails first-place Montpellier by five points with four matches left.
The Costa Rican international set up both goals in Lorient’s 2-1 French Ligue 1 win over visiting Olympique Marseille. Former Lorient defender Jeremy Morel tripped Campbell in the penalty area and Arnold Mvuemba converted the ensuing penalty kick in the 41st minute. Campbell, on loan from Arsenal, tried to score just before halftime, but his 25-yard blast just missed the net. But seven minutes into the second half, the Central American squared the ball for Kevin Monnet-Paquet, who doubled the lead with his second goal in as many games.
The Mexican goalkeeper just about stood on his head keeping Ajaccio in the game in its 3-1 loss to Rennes. The loss left the club in 17th place and 34 points, only a point ahead of the relegation zone as the league enters its final weeks. Ajaccio was forced to play with 10 men for the final 79 minutes of the match after Samuel Bouhours was red carded in the 11th minute. Ochoa made several key saves to keep Ajaccio in the match. He produced a diving save on Jires Kembo Ekoko shortly after the dismissal. He certainly was at the top of his game as he tipped away Alexander Tettey’s shot for a corner kick and Ochoa came up big again as he denied Julien Feret, who pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area in the 39th minute. Ochoa was at it again in the 66th minute as he denied Ekoko again.
Cardozo, a Paraguayan, scored the go-ahead for Benfica, which had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Rio Ave. The tie, coupled with Porto's 2-0 win over Maritimo, gave the former the league title. Cardozo tallied in the 40th minute to give Benfica a 2-1 advantage, but Rio Ave tied it up on Yazalde's goal five minutes later.
David Fuster, Ernesto Valverde
The Spanish midfielder headed an extra-time goal to lift Olympiakos to a 2-1 win over Atromitos in the Greek Cup final, giving the club a double after winning the league title. Valverde, also a Spaniard, went out on top in his final game for Olympiakos as he had announced he would not renew his two-year contract with the club.
The Costa Rican international recorded a brace for FC three-time defending champion Copenhagen, which recorded a 3-0 win over AaB. Copenhagen, which moved six points ahead of FC Nordsjaelland wth five games remaining in the Superligaen, moved closer to winning the title. Bolanos struck in the seventh and 58th minutes.
Oribe Peralta, Humberto Suazo
The two CONCACAF Champions League finalists -- champion Monterrey and runner-up Santos Laguna -- enjoyed winning matches in the Mexican Clausura.
Oribe Peralta, voted the Golden Ball winner of the tournament, scored twice to power Santos Laguna to a 3-1 victory over host Atlas to grab a four-point lead. Carlos Quintero also found the net for the winners, who grabbed a two-goal advantage with the match only five minutes old. Leandro Cufre converted a penalty kick in the 20th minute for Atlas, but Peralta's second tally in the 49th minute restored Santos' two-goal margin.
Chilean striker Humberto Suazo, named the Golden Boot winner of the competition even though he had to sit out Wednesday night's finale with a yellow-card suspension, continued his scoring onslaught with a second-half brace in visiting Monterrey's 3-0 win over Atlante.
Marvin Chavez, Gabriel Gomez
Second-half substitute Marvin Chavez created both of the San Jose Earthquakes’ goal, including the late game-winner, in their 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. The Earthquakes (6-1-1) extended their unbeaten streak to six games, while the Union fell to 2-4-1.
Chavez, a Honduran international, sent a cross to Steve Lenhart, who headed home a goal three minutes into second-half stoppage time.
Chavez helped give San Jose a 1-0 lead in the 76th minute as he fed Lenhart for his first goal, a diving header at the back post in the 76th minute, which broke the Union’s shutout streak at club-record 407 minutes.
Panama’s Gabriel Gomez equalized some seven minutes later. Danny Mwanga managed to get ahold of the ball in front of the Earthquakes goal and passed the ball to Gomez, who scored his third goal of the season.
Marco Pappa, Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Pavel Pardo
Pappa, a Guatemalan midfielder, scored in the 89th minute for the Chicago Fire, which dropped a 2-1 decision to the Seattle Sounders FC in Major League Soccer action. Pappa tallied directly off a corner kick as he bent a swerving service over goalkeeper Michael Gspurning’s outstretched arms off the back post and over the line. It was the 21st of Pappa’s Fire career and moved him into a tie with Nate Jaqua for seventh all-time on the club’s goal scoring list. It also was his first goal since a hat-trick at Real Salt Lake on Sept. 28.
Seattle struck first in the 39th minute. Alonso, a former Cuban international, played the ball to Eddie Johnson as the one-time U.S. international collected the ball at the endline. Johnson cut back for David Estrada, whose low effort deflected off of Fire defender Arne Friedrich, caught Sean Johnson wrong-footed and tucked inside the near post.
The attempt was credited as an own goal to the German international. The visitors doubled their lead in the 66th minute when a free kick from Fredy Montero was saved with a diving effort from Johnson but Hurtado followed before Johnson tapped in the rebound.
Former Mexican international Pavel Pardo played the entire match for the Fire and figured in one scoring opportunity in the 23rd minute. A corner kick from Grazzini found Pardo at the near post. Pardo got his head to it before Gspurning punched the ball for another corner.
The Panamanian international striker did not score for FC Dallas in its 1-1 draw at the LA Galaxy, but he set up the lone goal for the visitors. In the 60th minute, Jair Benitez to sent a cross to Perez at the back post. Perez won the ball in the air, knocking it to himself at the opposite post, where he was fouled by Gaudette. Brek Shea took the penalty kick for Dallas, striking a low, hard shot to the left side.
Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for more than three decades, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.
Michael Lewis, who has covered eight World Cups and has been reporting about soccer for four decades, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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