Messi magic sees Barça beat Sevilla
Lionel Messi continued his incredible scoring form as Barcelona beat Sevilla to keep the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid. The forward scored a wonderful second goal, nutmegging a defender before chipping the goalkeeper, to take his tally to 14 in his last six games in all competitions.
Xavi opened the scoring with a free-kick in the 15th minute as Barça won at a canter to close the gap provisionally on Madrid to seven points. This was Barcelona's first game since it was announced their defender Eric Abidal was to undergo a liver transplant and both teams wore t-shirts in support of the France international before the game.
Despite the victory, coach Pep Guardiola conceded that they were not going to overturn Real's lead, who are currently seven points clear with a game in hand. "Forget the league, we are not going to win," said Guardiola. "If this team has anything then it is that it competes, but there has been another side which has been better and achieved better results than us and there is no need to smooth over the fact."
Despite his black mood, Guardiola insisted that his team would keep going until the end. "Players at Barcelona go out to win. We have a very difficult tie in the next round of the Champions League (against AC Milan) but we are not going to hold back in the league and rest players," he said.
Pedro went close for Barça in the 12th minute with a shot from the centre of the area which Andres Palop brilliantly tipped round the post. At the other end Ivan Rakitic's corner to the near post found Julien Escude, whose header went wide.
The hosts went in front in the 16th minute, Xavi stepping up to fire a free-kick from the edge of the area into the top-left corner. The hosts were creating chances, though, and Manu brought a parry from Victor Valdes with a left-footed effort.
But, like so many sides before them, they had no answer to the brilliance of Messi, who doubled the lead in the 25th minute. The Argentinian ran on to a through ball from Andres Iniesta, nicked the ball through the legs of a defender as he broke into the left of the area and scored with an audacious chip over Palop and into the far top corner.
Sevilla were almost gifted a way back into the game by some poor defending from Gerard Pique, Jose Antonio Reyes nipping in front of him to get a header in which came back off the bar. But Palop had to be alert at the other end on the stroke of half-time to push away a Cesc Fabregas shot from inside the area.
The visitors were quieter after the break, always in control as they kept Sevilla at arm's length, but Iniesta missed a glaring chance in the 73rd minute. The Spain midfielder was played clear by Messi and appeared set to roll the ball into an unguarded net after Palop bought his dummy and went to ground only to dink his shot wide of the post.
Manu went just wide with a shot from a Jesus Navas cross, but Alexis Sanchez should have put Barça three up when he raced clear one-on-one with Palop, who made a save with his feet. Messi thought he had scored his second in the 90th minute when he found the far corner with a low angled shot, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Sevilla had long since run out of ideas, though, as Barça claimed a comfortable victory.