Messi, Pique spark Barca comeback win

Barcelona, February 29

Defender Gerard Pique grabbed a rare winner and Lionel Messi scored yet another beauty as Barcelona came from behind to beat Sevilla 2-1 at the Nou Camp on Sunday and reclaim an eight-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Second-placed Atletico Madrid had narrowed the gap to five points by winning the capital derby 1-0 at the Bernabeu on Saturday, a result that leaves Real Madrid 12 points adrift of Barcelona.

Sevilla, who meet Barca in the King’s Cup final on May 22, went in front following a break down the left as full back Benoit Tremoulinas crossed to the far post and Vitolo volleyed the

ball past keeper Claudio Bravo after 20 minutes. Messi equalised just past the half hour with a sublime free kick that dipped over the wall and nestled in the top corner.

Barca’s winner, which extended their unbeaten run to 34 matches in all competitions, came three minutes into the second half as Messi cut the ball back to Luis Suarez and his cross was converted from close range by centre half Pique. Luis Enrique’s men have now drawn level with Real Madrid’s record undefeated sequence set in 1988-89 under Dutchman Leo Beenhakker. “Sevilla are a team that defend well and counter-attack well. They had two clear chances and scored a goal,” Pique told Spanish television. “To get back from a goal down is always hard. We’ve got a lot of matches in our legs and everything is hard work,” he added.

Barca have 66 points from 26 games, Atletico 58, Real Madrid 54 and Villarreal 52 in fourth place after a 3-0 home win over Levante. Neymar might have had a penalty for Barca when he was bundled off the ball on the edge of the box midway through the second half but Sevilla would not have been flattered had they secured a point. Play flowed from one end to the other in the last half-hour as the visitors defended as a 10-man block and repeatedly threatened an equaliser on the break.

Bravo blocked an effort from Kevin Gameiro at point-blank range, then Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico turned Neymar’s shot over the bar seconds later. Koke also headed Messi’s inswinging corner on to the post as he tried to clear while Suarez blasted the rebound against the bar.

Barca, on course to win a second consecutive La Liga-King’s Cup-Champions League treble, are in action again on Thursday at Rayo Vallecano.