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Soccer-Tello hat-trick lifts Barca to win over Levante

Reuters

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BARCELONA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Cristian Tello hit a hat-trick as Barcelona came from behind to win 4-1 in their King's Cup quarter-final first leg at Levante on Wednesday and Lionel Messi celebrated his 400th appearance for the Catalan side.

Levante's Nabil El Zhar slotted home a rebound after 30 minutes but with Barca carrying a greater attacking threat after the break they equalised through an own-goal by Juanfran.

Messi set up all three goals for Tello and Barca will take a comfortable lead back to the Nou Camp.

Messi reached another landmark in his illustrious career with his 400th match in a Barcelona shirt having made his official debut in October 2004 against Espanyol.

"In the first half we lacked depth and circulated the ball poorly but we still had chances and hit the post," Barca coach Gerardo Martino told a news conference.

"In the second half we were very good. When Messi plays like he did in the second half he was able to open up this game and could open up any other."

Barcelona were held by Levante 0-0 in the league last weekend but both sides made a number of changes as they looked to rest players.

Pedro struck the post with a strike from the edge of the area early on but they looked vulnerable at the back and El Zhar put Levante ahead after having his first shot saved by Jose Manuel Pinto.

Barca upped their rhythm in the second half, causing a mistake in the Levante defence with Loukas Vyntra clearing a ball against Juanfran and it ricocheted into the net.

Messi then came to the fore as he split the defence for Tello to slot home.

The combination of Messi's trickery on the ball and Tello's pace worked twice more in the final stages as the latter latched on to passes from the Argentine to score.

Earlier, Mikel Gonzalez scored twice and Carlos Vela grabbed the other in a 3-1 victory for Real Sociedad in their first leg against Racing Santander, whose goal came from Mahamadou Kone.

Real Madrid have a 1-0 advantage over Espanyol from their game on Tuesday and holders Atletico Madrid play Athletic Bilbao on Thursday. (Reporting by Tim Hanlon, editing by Ed Osmond)

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