Lionel Messi assisted three times on Sunday in Quique Setien’s anticipated return to the Estadio Benito Villamarin, as Barcelona edged Real Betis 3-2.
The victory marks Barcelona’s second consecutive league win, who remain three points behind league leaders – and winners on Sunday – Real Madrid.
The match got off to a burning start as Sergio Canales converted from the spot six minutes in after a handball was called by VAR on Clément Lenglet, who wound up exiting the pitch after cumulated yellow cards in the 79th minute.
Just three minutes later, Frenkie de Jong canceled out Betis’ lead with a delicate finish of his own. Nabil Fekir, however, would put the home side up with a long-range shot in the 26th minute. Setien’s return to Seville was off to a rocky start.
Like in many cases in the past, Messi’s dominance would wind up saving Barcelona.
The Argentine’s desperate ball into the box was pushed in by Sergio Busquets in the final seconds of the first half, while his lofting cross was met by Lenglet’s well-placed header in the second half to give the Blaugrana the much-needed victory.
With a late goal from Wu Lei, Espanyol pulled off a stunning 2-2 derby draw against league leaders and rival Barcelona, who failed to regain their two-point lead at the top of La Liga on Saturday at RCDE Stadium.
Luis Suarez leveled the score with a right-footed, leaping volley in the 50th minute and assisted Arturo Vidal only nine minutes later with a superlative outside-of-the-boot cross well within the box. The Uruguayan ace has either scored or assisted in Barcelona’s last 10 league goals.
Espanyol, playing under newly-appointed manager Abelardo for the first time ever, made it difficult to believe that it was a derby between the best team in the Spanish league against the worst. Los Periquitos came out confident and poised, drawing first blood 23 minutes after David Lopez’s zoomed passed Neto.
The hosts went into halftime up a goal, and even though Barcelona benefited from Arturo Vidal’s inclusion, Espanyol fought back.
Chinese star Lei sent the home fans over the moon after striking the back of the net against a Frenkie de Jong-less, 10-man Barcelona with a minute to play in regular time.
With only a goal differential advantage on Real Madrid, Barcelona host Atletico Madrid on Thursday in the Supercopa semifinal. Espanyol, on the other hand, look to carry their positive momentum to their second round Copa del Rey bout in a weeks time.