BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi marked his 400th game for Barcelona with a master class of passing by setting up four goals to give Cristian Tello a hat trick in a 4-1 win at Levante in Wednesday's first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal.
Denied by the hosts in the first half, Messi withdrew into midfield to turn playmaker and place four precise passes behind the defense that led to an own goal in the 53rd minute and Tello's treble in the 60th, 81st and 86th.
Levante had held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at Ciutat de Valencia Stadium just four days earlier in the Spanish league, and it was on course toward a similar feat after Nabil El Zhar netted in the 31st.
But Messi again showed that he is much more than Barcelona's all-time scorer with 331 goals since his debut in 2004 by exploiting Tello's speed down the left flank with well-timed assists.
"It's spectacular to have a player like Messi on your side," said Tello. "All four goals came from his boots."
Elsewhere, Real Sociedad defender Mikel Gonzalez scored twice to help earn a 3-1 victory at home over third-division Racing Santander in their opening leg.
Levante found Barcelona's weak spot in defending set pieces when Carles Puyol's clearance of a free kick fell for El Zhar to score at the second attempt after goalkeeper Jose Pinto had blocked his powerful first shot.
Barcelona was more inspired after the break and Messi's first pass to Tello led to the equalizer. Goalie Javier Jimenez got down to block Tello's shot, but Loukas Vyntra struck the loose ball off teammate Juanfran Garcia and into the net.
Messi again floated back to the center of the pitch to draw the defense with him before threading another pass to meet Tello's run, and this time the forward fired the ball beyond Jimenez to give Barcelona the lead.