Sports

Leo roars back

SEVILLA 1

(Alberto Moreno 15)

BARCELONA 4

(Alexis Sanchez 34, Lionel Messi 44, 56, 
Cesc Fabregas 88)

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said Lionel Messi had answered his critics in the best way possible after they beat Sevilla 4-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Messi scored a brace, his first goals from open play in 10 league games.

Sevilla had gone ahead early, under the torrential rain at the Sanchez Pizjuan, but Messi led his side's revival as he first crossed for Alexis Sanchez to bundle home the equaliser before finishing off a fine counter-attack with a stunning half-volley just before half-time.

The four-time World Player of the Year doubled his tally with another sweet finish from Andres Iniesta's pass 11 minutes after the break and Cesc Fabregas rounded off the scoring two minutes from time.

Messi had been questioned for his poor goalscoring form since returning from a hamstring injury at the start of the year, but Martino insisted it was only a matter of time before he returned to form in front of goal.

"I always say the same with respect to Leo. I never run the risk of going over the top with him," said Martino.

"Those who do say something negative about him sometimes don't realise what they are doing is affecting his pride and, when you do that to the best player in the world, this is what happens."

TOP THREE LEVEL

Victory moved Barca back to the top of La Liga on goal difference over Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, with all three sides tied on 57 points.

The Catalans had started the weekend off top spot for the first time in 59 league matches, following a shock 3-2 home defeat by Valencia the previous weekend.

Martino is determined not to hand the advantage to their title rivals again in the remaining 15 league games.

"To have the opportunity to recover and regain the lead just a week after losing it is reassuring.

"We start again now and we will see which of the three teams make a mistake first. We hope it won't be us again."

The game was also notable for Iniesta's return to form.

The Spanish international hadn't played 90 minutes since the 4-0 win over Elche on Jan 5, but was undoubtedly his side's best performer in midfield as they recovered after a difficult opening.

Despite his contribution, Iniesta was also keen to laud the difference made by Messi.

"Leo never goes missing, he is one of the few players in the world that, in a few seconds or in a few metres, can turn a game. He does it all the time and he did it again today," said Iniesta.

"It was important to win today and to return to the top of the table.

"We lost the leadership last week and it is good to return so quickly. The conditions weren't the best, but we managed to take the three points.

"The equality between all the teams is good for everyone. We will see what happens in the end." - AFP.

OTHER RESULTS

l Osasuna 2 (Riera 6, Torres 88) 
 Getafe 0

l Valladolid 2 (Osorio 71, 83) 
 Elche 2 (Coro 34, Del Moral 66)

l Real Sociedad 0 
 Levante 0

l This morning: 
Celta Vigo v Athletic Bilbao

LA LIGA Leo never 
goes missing, he is one of the few players in the world 
who can 
turn a game.

- Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta on Messi LA LIGA