Messi and Villa shine for Barcelona
Barcelona cruised to an impressive 5-0 win against Sevilla at the Camp Nou this evening to stay within a point of La Liga leaders Real Madrid. Lionel Messi and David Villa scored two goals apiece with ex-Sevilla man Daniel Alves also getting on the scoresheet.
Messi gave Barςa the lead after just four minutes and Villa struck a fine second midway through the first half. Sevilla finished the first-half with 10 men after Abdoulay Konko was sent off. Alves then put the result beyond doubt with the third shortly into the second period, before Messi scored a fine fourth after 64 minutes. Villa claimed the fifth in injury time.
Barςa coach Pep Guardiola welcomed back Xavi to his starting XI after the Spain midfielder recovered from a troublesome Achilles problem this week. The Catalans travel to Denmark to face FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, but Guardiola fielded his strongest possible side for this match. Having seen fierce rivals Madrid come back to beat Hercules 3-1 immediately before this match, Barςa knew only a win would keep them in touch with the league leaders.
There were only four minutes on the clock when stand-in Sevilla keeper Javi Varas parried Pedro's cross and Messi was there to slot home the rebound for his 13th goal of the season in all competitions. It was an unlucky 13 for Sevilla, who beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey last season but have only won six of 67 matches against the Catalans at the Camp Nou.
Luis Fabiano drilled wide for the visitors and Diego Capel shot straight at Victor Valdes from close range as Gregorio Manzano's side sought a way back into the game. A comeback looked unlikely as Villa ended his recent scoring drought with a fine second halfway through the first period. Messi advanced down the right and laid the ball off to the Spain striker, who cut into the area and sent an unstoppable angled drive into Varas' top right-hand corner.
Things became even more difficult for Sevilla just before the break as Konko hacked down Pedro and was shown his second yellow card of the night. To make matters worse still, Ndri Romaric gifted the home side a third seven minutes into the second period. The Côte d'Ivoire international headed back to keeper Varas, but Alves read the pass-back and raised a leg to poke home from well inside the area. The Brazil full-back looked embarrassed to score against his former club and raised his hands in an apologetic gesture as his team-mates congratulated him.
Bojan Krkic and Javier Mascherano came on for Pedro and Xavi with half an hour left, but the fourth goal came from a predictable source - Messi. The Argentinian won the ball back in midfield, waltzed through a crowd of players and slid a low shot past Varas just inside the post from the edge of the box to make it 4-0.
Villa added his second, and Barcelona's fifth, right at the death as he drilled a low left-footed drive past the hapless Varas. The reigning Spanish champions remain a point behind Madrid at the top of the table, while Sevilla stay in sixth for now, but could be overtaken by Getafe and Atletico Madrid tomorrow.