SEVILLE, Spain – Argentine superstar Lionel Messi notched on Saturday his 50th career hat-trick and assisted on another goal in FC Barcelona’s 4-2 away win over Sevilla in La Liga.
Barcelona went down on the scoreboard on two different occasions, but a clinical Messi led his team back and made a big statement ahead of two upcoming clashes against arch-rival Real Madrid.
“We’re going away happy because it’s a great win. Winning here is tough; it’s not easy. Things got difficult, but we were able to rise above to get through a very difficult game,” Messi said after the victory.
Sevilla were eager to make amends for a humiliating 6-1 loss last month to Barça in the second leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal clash in Copa del Rey, a defeat that canceled out the Andalusian team’s 2-0 win in the first leg.
Aware of the danger Sevilla can pose, Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde did not rest any of his key players even though the second leg of the Catalans’ Copa del Rey semifinal second leg against Real Madrid is just four days away.
The hosts came out with greater intensity at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium and were rewarded in the 22nd minute when midfielder Jesus Navas successfully culminated a counter-attack by scoring past German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Messi, however, needed just four minutes to draw his team level, doing so in style with a volley off a cross from Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic.
Even so, Sevilla grabbed the lead back three minutes before first-half stoppage time when Argentine right back Gabriel Mercado made the most of a pass by attacking midfielder Pablo Sarabia inside the area.
Valverde made two changes at the start of the second half, inserting Sergi Roberto and Ousmane Dembele in place of Nelson Semedo and an out-of-sorts Arturo Vidal, respectively.
Those moves completely changed the complexion of the match, as the visitors overwhelmed a Sevilla side that saw their effectiveness wane due to injuries to Mercado and center back Maximilian Wober.
Barcelona translated their dominating play into a goal in the 67th minute, when Messi sent a curling, right-footed shot from the edge of the area into the upper right corner to draw his team level a second time.
Messi then completed his hat-trick in the 85th minute when he took advantage of a loose ball inside the area and chipped the ball in a one-on-one situation over Czech net minder Tomas Vaclik, who had gone to the ground to try to prevent a shot between his legs.
Three minutes into second-half stoppage time, Luis Suarez put the match out of reach by finding the back of the net on an assist by Messi.
That score also was lofted over Vaclik’s head and was the Uruguayan international’s first in his last six matches.
Afterward, Messi stressed the importance of every win during the final stretch of the season.
He added that Barcelona would try to compete for every title – La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League – and predicted a tough match against Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal scheduled for Wednesday at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
The teams are tied 1-1 after the first leg.
The arch-rivals will then play again next Saturday, also at Madrid’s home ground.
Barcelona now have 57 points in La Liga after Saturday’s win, 10 more than second-placed Atletico Madrid, who will take on Villarreal on Sunday at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.