Messi scores twice as Barca close in on title

Argentine's brace against Betis leaves his side needing just two points to seal title

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 5:34am


Lionel Messi came off the bench to move Barcelona within two points of clinching the La Liga title with a 4-2 win over Real Betis at Camp Nou.

Dorlan Pabon and Ruben Perez had twice given the visitors the lead in the first half either side of Alexis Sanchez's equaliser.

However, after David Villa had once again levelled the scores, it was unsurprisingly left to Messi to decide matters, as within three minutes of coming on he fired in a wonderful free kick and then tapped home after a flowing move involving Sanchez and Andres Iniesta.

"The important thing is to go out as league champions," Sanchez said.

"We have to go game by game, fighting for the victories, but the fundamental thing is to win the league whenever it may be.

"When Messi comes on he offers a lot to the team. It motivates us to play together."

However, after the defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Barca again started badly as a goalkick from Jose Manuel Pinto was headed back towards the Barca goal by Jorge Molina and avoided everyone on its way through to Pabon, who finished confidently.

The lead only lasted six minutes as Iniesta turned wonderfully on the left and delivered a tantalising ball into the middle which Sanchez bulleted home with his head to register his sixth league goal of the season.

Villa then passed up two incredible chances to give Barca the lead as he inexplicably blazed over from six yards after being teed up perfectly by Iniesta and Xavi before placing his side-footed effort too close to Adrian after Cristian Tello had cut the ball back from the byline.

Tello was then desperately unlucky as he cut in from the left and rocketed a shot that came off the underside off the bar that didn't quite fully cross the line on its way back out.

However, Betis were back in front two minutes before half-time as Perez found the top corner with a glorious strike from fully 30 yards.

The game turned again within 15 minutes of the restart as Villa finally got his name on the scoresheet as he took advantage of incredibly slack Betis defending to head home Dani Alves' cross before being replaced by Messi.