Barcelona win after Messi goals, Real Madrid stay top
MADRID: With Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi on top form, Barcelona needed less than 10 minutes to take care of Sevilla and keep the pressure on Real Madrid in the Spanish league on Wednesday.
Suarez scored with a bicycle kick and Messi struck twice within the next eight minutes on his return to action as Barcelona eased to a 3-0 victory in its pursuit of a third straight league title.
Madrid also won, beating struggling Leganes 4-2 without Cristiano Ronaldo and several other regular starters to maintain a two-point lead over the Catalan club. Zinedine Zidane's team also has a game in hand.
Sevilla remained in fourth place, but is 13 points off the lead and virtually out of contention for the title with eight games remaining. Jorge Sampaoli's team is still reeling from its elimination by Leicester in the last 16 of the Champions League and hasn't won in five league matches.
It never had a chance against Barcelona under steady rain at the Camp Nou.
"The first half was spectacular," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "Sevilla never threatened us. In the end we lost some of the control of the match, but I'm very satisfied."
Suarez opened the scoring with his superb effort from inside the six-yard box. A pass by Messi deflected off a defender and the ball flew up in the air in front of the Uruguay striker, who flicked it over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in the 25th minute.
"A striker always has an idea of where the goal is," Suarez said. "I didn't have another alternative because the ball was in the air. I just went for it."
Suarez has scored seven goals in his last seven games. His league total of 24 goals this season is three less than scoring leader Messi, who got his first of the night in the 28th minute with an easy shot from inside the area after a combination of passes between Neymar and Suarez.
Messi, who struck the crossbar only minutes into the game, added to the lead in the 33rd with a left-foot shot after Sevilla defenders failed to fully clear a ball inside the box.
He celebrated by sliding two fingers under his right eye, as if painting his face like a warrior, a reference to a campaign supporting children fighting cancer. The campaign was being promoted by Barcelona and Messi's foundation.
Messi, who has now scored 43 goals in 41 matches for Barcelona this season, was playing his first game in nearly two weeks. He missed the win at Granada last weekend through suspension, and began a four-game international suspension just before Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Bolivia after insulting a linesman.
Messi's last game had been on March 23, when he scored Argentina's winner over Chile in South American qualifying.
Sevilla was fighting for the league title not long ago, but is now enduring its worst moment of the season.
It had a chance to take the lead at the Camp Nou in the first half, but Steven N'Zonzi wasted one of the team's best opportunities in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
"We have to start believing again," Sampaoli said. "We have to start winning again."
Sevilla striker Victor "Vitolo" Machin was sent off in injury time after being shown a second yellow card for a foul on Neymar.
It was Andres Iniesta's 700th game with Barcelona, including friendlies, and the club's 800th league win at the Camp Nou.