Messi bags brace, Betis beat Bilbao
© AFP

Lionel Messi scored twice on his first appearance in 59 days as Barcelona edged towards the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 4-0 win over Getafe in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The four-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner replaced Andres Iniesta after 63 minutes with Barcelona leading 2-0 thanks to a Cesc Fabregas double.

Messi put the tie to bed a minute from time when he slotted home a loose ball inside the area. And he added his 16th goal of the season with a stunning run and finish to round off the scoring in stoppage time.

With Messi having been out of action since tearing his hamstring in the 4-1 win over Real Betis in early November he was left on the bench by Barça boss Gerardo Martino.

The Argentine coach also had Saturday's upcoming top of the table clash away to Atletico Madrid in mind as he made had made six changes to the side that started last weekend's 4-0 win over Elche.

However, with Messi and Neymar, ruled out by a stomach bug, again not in the starting line-up, Martino maintained the front three of Alexis Sanchez, Pedro Rodriguez and Fabregas.

Martino's selection proved inspired as Pedro's lobbed cross was expertly headed into the far corner by Fabregas after just eight minutes.

However, Getafe then managed to stifle Barça from creating too many clear-cut chances before the break and indeed the hosts were grateful to a great save from Jose Manuel Pinto to turn away Juan Rodriguez's header to go in ahead at half-time.

Barça did finally have the breathing space they craved when Juan Valera upended Pedro inside the area and Fabregas blasted the resulting penalty into the top corner.

That set the scene for Messi's arrival and he didn't disappoint as he calmly slotted home a loose ball inside the area with his trusted left-foot after Martin Montoya had burst into the Getafe box.

The best was still to come, though, as Messi embarked on a trademark run through the Getafe defence before slamming high past Jordi Codina to leave next week's second leg in Madrid a formality.

Bilbao bested by Betis
In other Copa del Rey matches Wednesday, Real Betis saw off Athletic Bilbao 1-0 courtesy of Ruben Castro's 42nd-minute strike and Racing Santander's David Concha cancelled out Miguel Corona's opener for Almeria as the two sides battled to a 1-1 draw.

Elsewhere, Alcorcon edged Espanyol 1-0, who take their slim lead to the Cornella-El Prat stadium for the second leg match-up next Wednesday, 15 January.