Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores a disallowed goal - Reuters
BARCELONA (Reuters): Lionel Messi came off the bench to score twice and lead Barcelona to a 5-2 home victory over Real Betis on Saturday, snapping a four-game winless streak in La Liga for the Catalans.
Antoine Griezmann, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele also scored for Barça while Antonio Sanabria and Loren Moron replied for Betis, who had Aissa Mandi sent off on the hour-mark.
Barça’s first league victory since beating Celta Vigo on 1 October took them into eighth in the table with 11 points from seven games. Real Sociedad lead the standings with 17.
Barça’s captain was surprisingly left out of the starting lineup by coach Ronald Koeman, who later explained that Messi was feeling a little discomfort after the 2-1 win over Dynamo Kyiv in mid-week and had agreed to start on the bench.
Koeman’s side played well in the first half without Messi but missed a slew of clear opportunities and found themselves drawing 1-1 when Sanabria cancelled out Dembele’s superb opening strike on the stroke of halftime.
Messi was brought on at the start of the second period and promptly produced a sublime dummy to allow Griezmann to tap into an unguarded net and put Barça back in front in the 49th minute, the Frenchman finally making amends for missing four chances before the break including squandering a penalty.
Barça’s all-time top scorer Messi then further stretched their lead in the 61st by emphatically dispatching a penalty after Aissa Mandi was shown a straight red card, following a VAR review, for using his arm to block a shot from Dembele.
“The whole squad prefers it when Messi is on the pitch because he obviously gives you more options to win the game,” said Barça’s Jordi Alba.
“Today he came on and changed the game, he is a different player to everybody else and we were a different team when he was on the pitch.”