Football: Sanchez hat-trick returns Barca to La Liga summit

Barcelona's Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona v Elche CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on Jan 5, 2014. Sanchez hit a treble as Barcelona swept aside Elche 4-0 to retur
Barcelona's Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona v Elche CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on Jan 5, 2014. Sanchez hit a treble as Barcelona swept aside Elche 4-0 to return to the top of La Liga on goal difference ahead of Atletico Madrid on Sunday. -- PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Alexis Sanchez hit a treble as Barcelona swept aside Elche 4-0 to return to the top of La Liga on goal difference ahead of Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Showing no sign of missing injured Lionel Messi and rested Neymar, Barca took an early lead through Sanchez and Pedro made it 2-0 after 15 minutes.

Xavi Hernandez missed a penalty at the start of the second half before Sanchez added another and completed his hat-trick with a free kick.

Barca and Atletico Madrid, who beat Malaga on Saturday, both have 49 points, eight more than third-placed Real Madrid who face Celta Vigo on Monday.

Elche could only hold out for seven minutes before the home side took the lead when Jordi Alba's dangerous cross from the left wing evaded the defence and Chilean Sanchez fire into the roof of the net.

The visitors were inches away from equalising when Yiadom Boakye crashed a drive against the post but it was only a brief respite.

Barca pressed high up the pitch and with Elche's defence pushing up there were plenty of gaps to run into.

Cesc Fabregas's pass opened up the defence and Pedro finished clinically from an angle.

After the break Fabregas was brought down by Ionut Sapunaru and Xavi missed the penalty but Sanchez was more deadly, knocking home a Pedro cross from close range after 63 minutes.

He then curled home a 25-yard free kick to cap a great performance.

Earlier Vitolo, Carlos Bacca and Ivan Rakitic gave Sevilla a 3-0 win over Getafe that puts them sixth in the table.

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