Lionel Messi leads Barcelona to home victory
Lionel Messi responded to being benched by scoring twice as a substitute and leading Barcelona to a 5-2 home victory over Real Betis on Saturday, snapping a four-game winless streak in La Liga for the Catalans.
Antoine Griezmann, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele also scored for Barca while Antonio Sanabria and Loren Moron replied for Betis, who had Aissa Mandi sent off on the hour-mark.
Barca’s first league victory since beating Celta Vigo on October took them into eighth in the table with 11 points from seven games. Real Sociedad lead the standings with 17.
Barca’s captain was surprisingly left out of the starting line-up by coach Ronald Koeman and they found themselves drawing 1-1 when Sanabria cancelled out Dembele’s superb opening strike on the stroke of halftime.
Messi was brought on at the start of the second period and promptly produced a sublime dummy to allow Griezmann to tap into an unguarded net and put Barca back in front in the 49th minute, the Frenchman finally making amends for missing four chances before the break including squandering a penalty.
Barca’s all-time top scorer Messi then further stretched their lead in the 61st by emphatically dispatching a penalty.
Betis did manage to pull a goal back with 10 men when striker Loren netted at the far post to make it 3-2 after a marauding run down the left wing by Alex Moreno.
But Messi soon put the game beyond doubt, smashing the ball into the top corner after receiving a wonderful backheel from teammate Sergi Roberto, while 17-year-old Pedri struck the fifth after another fine pass from Sergi Roberto.
Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Eden Hazard have tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of their clash at Valencia.
“Our players Casemiro and Hazard have given positive results in the Covid-19 tests carried out on Friday morning,” Madrid said in a statement.