Lionel Messi came off the bench at halftime to score two goals as Barcelona beat 10-man Real Betis 5-2 on Saturday to end its four-game winless streak in the Spanish league.
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman gave Messi some rare rest during the first half. It was Messi’s first league game as a substitute in more than a year. Assistant coach Alfred Schreuder said before kickoff that Messi “was not fresh.”
Ousmane Dembele blasted a shot past former Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to give the hosts the lead in the 22nd minute.
Betis forward Antonio Sanabria equalized in the final seconds of the first half that featured four clear misses by Barcelona’s struggling forward Antoine Griezmann, including a penalty blocked by Bravo.
Messi spent the first half tucked in a winter coat and wearing a face mask like other substitutes in the otherwise empty Camp Nou. That all changed when Messi went on at the start of the second half for Ansu Fati and had a decisive impact.
Messi only needed four minutes to impact the match when he smartly skipped over a pass to let it run though for Griezmann to tap home.
Messi continued to show his playmaking skills. Deep inside Betis’ area, Messi turned and fed a pass to Dembele, whose shot was goal-bound when defender Aissa Mandi blocked it with his arm. A video review led to Mandi being shown a red card for impeding a clear goal.
Messi stepped up and causally blasted his spot kick into the top right corner to make it 3-1 in the 61st.
Lorenzo Morón got one back for Betis in the 73rd after Barcelona’s defense struggled to mark winger Álex Moreno.
But Messi put the result beyond doubt when Sergi Roberto set him up with a fine back-heeled pass for the Argentina forward to get his sixth goal in all competitions this season.
Roberto also assisted Pedro “Pedri” González in the 90th as the 17-old-year midfielder claimed his first league goal.
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