SEVILLE: A mesmeric Lionel Messi scored his 500th goal for Barcelona and helped the Catalan club to come from behind and beat Sevilla 2-1 in a thrilling encounter on Sunday as the champions kept the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid.
Barca were put under immense pressure from kick-off and fell behind to Vitolo’s 15th minute strike.
Messi levelled just before halftime following a slew of missed chances from the hosts.
Reaching that landmark prompted Barca to tweet: “Counting official matches and friendlies, Messi reaches the figure of 500 goals for FC Barcelona. Well done Leo!”
After the break, Barca took control and Luis Suarez fired in the winner in the 61st minute to save them from a second defeat in six days.
Barca stay two points behind Real, who lead the standings with 27 points. Villarreal beat Real Betis 2-0 to move up to third, three points behind Barca. Fifth-placed Sevilla, on 21 points, trail Atletico Madrid on goal difference.
Sunday’s meeting between Jorge Sampaoli’s relentless Sevilla and a Barcelona side smarting from 3-1 defeat at Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday promised a lot and lived up to the hype as a breathtaking end-to-end encounter ensued.
The hosts had two shots on goal inside 50 seconds, but from a Sevilla corner Barca broke forward at lightning speed and Suarez’s effort from Neymar’s layoff was brilliantly saved by Sergio Rico.
Sevilla remained on the front foot for most of the first-half and opened the scoring as Luciano Vietto’s through ball caught Sergi Roberto unawares and Vitolo swooped in to slot past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Sevilla grew in confidence and looked to grab another, Vietto firing wide from a tight angle and Vitolo crashing over the bar.
But Barca drew level following a wonderful break by Messi which drew in Denis Suarez and Neymar before the Argentine finished off.
Messi is the club’s all-time leading scorer with 469 goals in official matches and 31 in friendlies.
“There is no one like him and our objective as a team is to look for Leo as much as possible,” Barca boss Luis Enrique told Spanish TV station Movistar. “The capacity Messi has to play in any position and interpret what is happening on the field is laudable.”
Not content with that milestone, Messi set up Suarez’s winner with a precise pass to end Sevilla’s 100 percent record at home in the league and Europe.
“Comebacks like this always make a team stronger, especially when you remember no-one else has won at this ground,” said Enrique.
“It was a wonderful game for attacking players, who wanted the ball and wanted to take risks. It made for a hectic game. They took the lead then we found solutions. I’m very happy with how the day has gone.”