MADRID: Lionel Messi has ended his mini-scoring drought as Barcelona find their winning stride.
Messi curled a left-footed free kick over the wall and into the net for his first goal of the season to wrap up Barca’s 4-0 win over Sevilla in La Liga on Sunday.
The football great thrust his finger in the air before pumping his fist in celebration after scoring in the 78th minute. Messi had gone scoreless in his previous four appearances after being sidelined for five games with injuries.
Messi’s 37th goal in 38 career meetings with Sevilla was also his first since he won his record sixth FIFA player of the year award last month.
“We know how important Leo is for this team and what he means to us,” Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal said. “If he is playing well it helps us a lot.”
Luis Suarez put Barca on the winning path for a second time this week after netting with a bicycle kick in the 27th despite Sevilla having dominated the game before then. On Wednesday, the Uruguay striker had sparked a 2-1 comeback over Inter Milan in the Champions League with a superb volley before he added a fine second goal.
Vidal then finished a superb passing move that involved all 11 Barca players and Ousmane Dembele powered through to make it three in the next 10 minutes to turn what had been a tightly contested start into a demolition.
After a stuttering start to the season while Messi was out injured, Barca’s fourth straight victory in all competitions lifted them into second place, two points behind leaders Real Madrid and one above Atletico Madrid, who could have done with some of the Catalans’ classy finishing in their goalless draw away at Real Valladolid.
For all the turbulence and scrutiny on Ernesto Valverde and Zinedine Zidane, Barca and Real head into the international break not only as the league’s two frontrunners but with confidence and momentum too.
“It was crucial for us,” said Valverde. “It has been a strange start to the season and we have not added all the points we would have wanted.”
Barca finished with nine men after referee Mateu Lahoz sent off Ronald Araujo on his debut after making contact with Sevilla’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez with only the Barca goalkeeper to beat. Replays showed minor contact between the two players.
Demebele was then shown a direct red, for criticising Lahoz’s decision by saying he was “very bad.”
Atletico’s stalemate means they have managed only two wins from their last seven games in all competitions and they could even have lost if Valladolid’s Sandro Ramirez had not skied a first-half penalty. Diego Simeone’s side managed only one shot on target.
Getafe fought back once Real Sociedad were reduced to 10 men to win 2-1 in San Sebastian, leaving Sociedad in fifth place just ahead of Sevilla.
Iago Aspas broke his seven-game scoring drought and gave Celta Vigo a 1-0 win over Athletic Bibao. Espanyol fell second to last after losing 2-0 at Mallorca.
Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019