Messi helps Barca to victory over Sevilla

Reuters, MADRID

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 - Page 18

Lionel Messi helped Barcelona shake off the hangover from their midweek defeat by AC Milan as the leaders rallied to a 2-1 win at home to fellow King’s Cup semi-finalists Sevilla in La Liga on Saturday.

Barca were stunned 2-0 away in a Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday and Sevilla played a similar game plan to the Italians, denying the hosts space and breaking to take the lead just before halftime.

David Villa and world player of the year Messi completed the second-half comeback to leave Barca top with 68 points from 25 games, 15 ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who were scheduled to host RCD Espanyol yesterday.

Real Madrid are third with 52 points, after also having to come from behind to beat bottom side RC Deportivo de La Coruna 2-1 with late goals from Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain.

Both Real and Barca, who meet in a Cup semi-final second leg at the Camp Nou on Tuesday, with the tie level at 1-1, struggled as they fielded weakened sides to rest key players.

Sevilla, who need to overturn a 2-1 deficit in their semi-final at home to Atletico on Wednesday, had also rested players, but struck against the run of play when Alberto Botia rose above Dani Alves to nod past Victor Valdes in the 42nd minute.

Barca improved in the second period and Alves crossed for Villa to head the equalizer in the 52nd minute.

A slick passing move led to Cristian Tello feeding Messi in the area and the Argentine slotted away his 38th league goal of the season on the hour.

At the Riazor, a determined Deportivo troubled a Real side who had left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.

Depor, who had lost five consecutive matches coming into the match, were dangerous on the break and from one such move striker Riki beat Diego Lopez at his near post with a powerful low drive in the 34th minute.

Real were reeling as Marcelo headed a Pizzi effort off the line, Riki swept a shot past the post and Lopez denied Bruno Gama with a flying save.

After coach Jose Mourinho brought on Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira in the 57th minute, Real upped their game and Brazil’s Kaka swept in the equalizer with a curling shot from outside the area in the 73rd minute.

Kaka also featured in the second goal, playing Ronaldo into the area and he squared for Argentine striker Higuain to roll the ball home in the 88th minute.

Real finished with 10 men after Angel Di Maria collected two yellow cards in the same incident as he held up a Depor free-kick at the end.

Earlier, Brazilian striker Jonas scored twice as Valencia came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Real Zaragoza and move up to fifth on 41 points.

They are one point behind fourth-placed Malaga.

Struggling RCD Mallorca slumped to a 3-1 defeat at home to Getafe to stay second from bottom.