Lionel Messi’s Brace Powers Barcelona To 3-0 Win Over Sevilla
Lionel Messi netted a double as Barcelona overcame Sevilla 3-0 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday to keep the pressure on Real Madrid in the battle for the 2016-17 La Liga title.
In an eight-minute spell towards the end of the first half, Barca effectively ended any chance of Sevilla taking something from the game.
A 25th-minute Luis Suarez strike was quickly followed by Messi’s brace, and although the game opened up more in the second half, Barca never looked in any real trouble throughout the 90 minutes.
The victory moved Barcelona into top spot in La Liga by one point, with Real still to face Leganes on Wednesday.
Going into the game, the teams had just two league wins between them since the start of February, with Arsenal seven points adrift of the top four at kick-off.
With pockets of home fans staying away until the 13th minute in their latest protest against manager Arsene Wenger — 13 signifying the number of years since they last won the league — it was West Ham who started brighter.
Michail Antonio looked a threat playing further forward down the right and won a free kick inside 10 minutes which Manuel Lanzini put just over the bar of Emiliano Martinez — Arsenal’s third-choice goalkeeper who was deputising with Petr Cech and David Ospina injured.
As the 13th minute arrived and a number of fans took their seats, Hammers skipper Mark Noble angled a low shot wide, with Bilic’s men still just about on top.
The hosts’ defence looked shaky at times in the opening 25 minutes as half chances fell to Steven N’Zonzi and Vitolo.
However, Barca looked dominant in the main, pushing Sevilla back, and a typically spectacular finish from Suarez saw Luis Enrique’s side ahead 20 minutes from the break.
After a strong run from Messi down the right, Suarez found himself with his back to goal on the edge of the six-yard box, and he duly executed a fine overhead kick to make it 1-0.
Spanish football writer Dermot Corrigan was rightly impressed:
Three minutes later, Messi got his first as he finished off a flowing counter-attacking move.
Barca won the ball deep in their own half and charged forward at speed. Neymar pulled a cross to Suarez from the left byline, and the Uruguayan put it on a plate for Messi to fire home from six yards out.
In the 33rd minute, the Argentinian made it 3-0, pinging home a thunderous left-footed volley from inside the box after Sevilla failed to deal properly with a corner.
It was a mightily impressive finish from Messi and added to his remarkable tally against Wednesday’s opponents, per Squawka:
The second half started in similar fashion with Barcelona’s front three pressuring Sevilla at every turn.
Neymar and Messi both had half chances soon after the break, and even centre-back Gerard Pique found himself in a goalscoring opportunity in open play, but it remained 3-0.
Sevilla finally worked Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stergen after the hour as the German was forced to keep out a fierce Pablo Sarabia drive.
And the visitors enjoyed more of the ball in the final half hour and showed some much-needed intent and aggression as they went toe to toe with Barca—Vitolo was somewhat overzealous as he received a needless second yellow card for a foul on Neymar in stoppage time.
But the damage had been done in the opening 45 minutes, and Barcelona were fully deserving of the three points earned when the final whistle blew.