Messi rescues Barcelona

MADRID – Lionel Messi came off the bench to preserve Barcelona’s unbeaten run in La Liga with a sensational late equaliser in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Sevilla on Saturday as the runaway leaders came back from two goals down in the space of a minute.

Champions Real Madrid eased to a 3-0 win over lowly Las Palmas with goals from Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema despite missing six regular starters, including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo and captain Sergio Ramos.

Franco Vazquez opened the scoring for Sevilla from close range in the 36th minute and Colombia international Luis Muriel doubled the home side’s lead by smashing in on the rebound five minutes into the second half.

Messi had began the game on the bench due to continued muscle discomfort which caused him to miss Argentina’s friendlies against Italy and Spain and the league’s top scorer was called into action in the 58th minute, replacing Ousmane Dembele.

Barca were instantly lifted by the Argentine’s arrival and shortly after coming on Luis Suarez rattled the near post but Sevilla continued to pour forward and Vazquez and Muriel each missed clear chances to strike again and put the game to bed.

Barca looked on course for a first league defeat since losing at Malaga last April but Suarez pulled one back with an acrobatic finish in the 88th minute and Messi whipped in the equaliser in the 89th with a venomous left-foot strike.

“Liga games are like this when your rival takes the game to you. They had a lot of chances after making it 2-0 but we showed a lot of pride and we stayed strong mentally,” Suarez told reporters.

“That is what Leo is all about as he keeps on showing us again and again. The team just kept on working and didn’t give up and it was down to him to score the equaliser.”

The goal stretched the Catalans’ unbeaten run in the league to 37 games and if they avoid defeat next week at home to Leganes they will equal Real Sociedad’s Liga record of 38 games without defeat, which has stood since 1980.

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