Lionel Messi scored two goals and set up another to lead Barcelona to a 4-1 comeback victory at Sevilla on Sunday, moving the defending champions to the top of La Liga.
Despite Barcelona showing vulnerability in defense, Messi’s best performance since returning from a lengthy injury layoff ensured that his side bounced back from a defeat by Valencia in the previous round.
Although Barca and the two Madrid clubs are in a three-way tie on 57 points after 23 rounds, the Catalan side are ahead on goal-difference, with Real in second and Atletico in third.
Sevilla dominated the first half-hour on the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan’s water-logged pitch and went ahead through Alberto Moreno’s 15th-minute goal.
Yet as the rain showers turned into a downpour, Messi supplied a free-kick for Alexis Sanchez to equalize in the 34th, before the Argentina forward blasted in his first goal in open league play since Sept. 28 last year, before his injury.
With Sevilla surging forward after halftime, Messi stepped up once more to score from Andres Iniesta’s pass in the 56th and substitute Cesc Fabregas capped the win with Barca’s fourth two minutes from time.
“Leo always shows up,” Iniesta said. “He is one of those few players who can change a game if you give him a few meters and he almost always does so.”
Messi’s Sunday double gave him 11 league goals this season, while Alexis leads the team with 14.
Elsewhere in La Liga, CA Osasuna beat Getafe 2-0 at home to move four points clear of the relegation zone, as Real Sociedad were held 0-0 by Levante UD at the Estadio Anoeta, while in Valladolid, Humberto Osorio scored twice to erase a two-goal deficit and give the hosts a 2-2 draw with Elche.
In Sevilla, los Rojiblancos must have wondered how they went into halftime losing 2-1 after bossing the first half and provoking havoc in Barcelona’s box throughout the game. Although Unai Emery’s side only allowed Barcelona to create two clear scoring chances, both ended in goals.
“It hurts, of course, because we had done a good job,” Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic said. “But when you play against the best, they punish you for any mistakes you make.”
Rakitic helped open the scoring by steering a team buildup and as Sevilla pressed their advantage, every corner and free-kick inspired panic in Barcelona’s defense.
However, Alexis then scored and Messi broke loose in midfield to pass to Pedro Rodriguez, who returned the ball for the Argentine to strike a shot into the net.
Fabregas then sealed the win with Sevilla’s defense in tatters.