Messi winner stretches Barcelona lead at top
MADRID (AFP) – Barcelona stretched their advantage at the top of La Liga to 15 points as two goals in eight minutes just before the hour mark from David Villa and Lionel Messi handed them a 2-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday.
The Catalans, who slumped to a shock Champions League loss at AC Milan in midweek, had to come from behind after Alberto Botia headed the visitors into a 42nd minute lead.
Barca star Javier Mascherano said it was important to get the equaliser quickly after the break.
“I think we were aware that we didn’t pay well in the first-half and we needed more,” he told Canal Plus.
“In the second-half I think we started with more intensity and luckily managed to find the equaliser quickly.”
Barca now face a huge Spanish Cup semi-final second-leg with Real Madrid on Tuesday with the tie finely balanced a 1-1 and Mascherano believes home advantage and an away goal gives them the upper hand.
“On Tuesday we have a big game but we have the advantage. We are playing a great rival but we need to finish the job.”
Barca faced much the same challenge as in their 2-0 defeat to AC Milan as they struggled to find a way through a packed Sevilla defence early on.
Messi had a low drive well-saved by Beto and also saw a free-kick drift over but Barca were stunned when the visitors took the lead with their first serious attack on the stroke of half-time.
A free-kick was played out to Coke on the right and his cross was headed beyond Victor Valdes by former Barca defender Botia.
The half-time scoreline forced Jordi Roura to introduce Cristian Tello for Alexis Sanchez and the Spanish Under-21 international was to have quite an impact as Barca turned the game around.
It was from the other side of the pitch though that they found the equaliser as Dani Alves’ perfect cross was headed home by David Villa seven minutes into the second period.
And Messi completed the turnaround as he scored for the 15th consecutive league game as he turned in Tello’s intelligent cut-back eight minutes later.
Sevilla still had their chances to take something from the game though as Ivan Rakitic pulled a shot just wide before Alvaro Negredo should have scored when he fired over 15 minutes from time.