Lionel Messi responded to being benched by scoring twice as a substitute and leading FC Barcelona to a 5-2 home victory over Real Betis on Saturday.
The win helped snapped a four-game winless streak in La Liga for the Catalans.
The Barca captain was surprisingly left out of the starting line-up by coach Ronald Koeman and they found themselves drawing 1-1.
That was when Antonio Sanabria cancelled out Ousmane Dembele’s superb opening strike on the stroke of half-time.
Messi was brought on at the start of the second period.
He promptly produced a sublime dummy to allow Antoine Griezmann tap into an unguarded net and put Barca back in front in the 49th minute.
The Frenchman was finally making amends for missing four chances before the break, including squandering a penalty kick.
Barca’s all-time top goalscorer Messi then further stretched their lead in the 61st minute by emphatically dispatching a penalty kick.
That was after Aissa Mandi was shown a straight red card, following a VAR review, for using his arm to block a shot from Dembele.
Real Betis did manage to pull a goal back with 10 men when striker Loren Moron netted at the far post to make it 3-2 after a marauding run down the left wing by Alex Moreno.
But Messi soon put the game beyond doubt, smashing the ball into the top corner after receiving a wonderful backheel from team mate Sergi Roberto.
Then, 17-year-old Pedri struck the fifth after another fine pass from Sergi Roberto.(Reuters/NAN)