MADRID – Lionel Messi scored three goals in his first game since winning his second straight FIFA player of the year award, and Barcelona routed second-division leader Betis 5-0 Wednesday night in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals to tie its unbeaten streak record at 27 games.
Messi scored in the 44th, 64th and 73rd minutes for his third hat trick of the season. Pedro Rodriguez added a goal in the 76th minute, and Seydou Keita headed in Andres Iniesta's flick in the 83rd.
Messi won the Golden Ball, with Iniesta second and Xavi Hernandez third as Barcelona provided all the finalists for Monday's announcement by FIFA. Messi has 31 goals in 27 games for Barcelona this season.
Flanked Xavi and Iniesta on the field before kickoff at Camp Nou, Messi showed the trophy he picked up in Zurich to fans.
"I think today any debate over who deserved the Ballon d'Or was settled," Barcelona defender Daniel Alves said. "He deserves it."
The Blaugrana, who matched the unbeaten mark they set in 1973-74, scored five or more goals for the eighth time this season. The second leg of the total-goals series is at Betis on Jan. 19.
"In the first half we weren't good at all, but in the second half we played at a great level, and we can say that the series is decided," Xavi said.
In the other first-leg quarterfinal, New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi scored his 17th goal of the season as Villarreal tied defending champion Sevilla 3-3. Alexis Ruano scored a tying goal for Sevilla in the 88th minute.
Cani and Marco Ruben also scored for the Yellow Submarine, and Alvaro Negredo had two goals for Sevilla.
On Thursday, Real Madrid hosts Atletico Madrid and Almeria hosts Deportivo La Coruna.
LONDON (AP) — Tamas Priskin beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the 78th minute, giving second-tier Ipswich a 1-0 upset win over visiting Arsenal in the first leg of the English League Cup semifinals.
Arsenal, bidding for its first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup, will host the second leg of the total-goals series on Jan. 25. Ipswich, which is just three points above the League Championship relegation zone, lost 7-0 at Chelsea in the FA Cup on Saturday after Paul Jewell succeeded Roy Keane as manager.
"Pretty much everyone in the country wrote us off today, so we've surprised a lot of people," Ipswich captain David Norris said. "We let a lot of people down against Chelsea. We didn't do ourselves justice, so we went out tonight with that bit of extra determination and did what we had to. But there's still work to be done and we still have to go to the Emirates in the second leg."
Kenny Dalglish's first Premier League match back as Liverpool manager ended in the club's second loss this season to Blackpool, which returned to the top flight after a 39-year absence.
Fernando Torres put Liverpool ahead in the third minute, but the Seasiders rallied on goals by Gary Taylor-Fletcher in the 12th and D.J. Campbell in the 69th.
Blackpool (8-8-4) is ninth with 28 points, and Liverpool (7-10-4) is 13th.
"You can see the effort and desire is there," Dalglish, who replaced Roy Hodgson, told the BBC. "But sometimes it doesn't matter how good the player is, he may not have the belief. We'll work hard on giving the side belief and confidence."
MILAN (AP) — Samuel Eto'o scored a pair of first-half goals, raising his total to 21 in 26 games this season, and Inter Milan beat Genoa 3-2 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Italian Cup.
Eto'o scored in the 15th and 43rd minutes. Houssine Kharja cut the margin in half when he converted a penalty kick in the 53rd, but McDonald Mariga made it 3-1 six minutes later. Giuseppe Sculli got the final goal in injury time.
In the other match, Fabio Miccoli's 80th-minute penalty kick gave Palmermo a 1-0 win over visiting Chievo Verona. Carlos Rincon had brought down Miccoli.