Barcelona comes back to beat Sevilla
BARCELONA, Spain (AP)
Lionel Messi helped Barcelona rebound from its loss at AC Milan by extending his league-record scoring run to 15 straight games in a 2-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday, three days before the Spanish leaders' key Copa del Rey clash with Real Madrid.
The two archrivals will meet at Camp Nou Stadium on Tuesday with their Copa del Rey semifinal poised 1-1.
Barcelona's 11th win in 12 league home games kept it on course to recover the league title from Madrid, which is 16 points adrift. Atletico Madrid is 15 points behind Barcelona before it plays Espanyol on Sunday.
The first half at Camp Nou resembled Barcelona's disappointing 2-0 loss at Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday when the Catalan side couldn't turn its control into goals and its defense proved brittle.
Sevilla resisted well early on and its plan paid dividends when it struck through its first incursion into Barcelona's area from a free kick by Ivan Rakitic. Former Barcelona youth player Alberto Botia rose over his marker to turn Jorge ''Coke'' Andujar's cross bouncing off the turf and beyond the reach of goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Frustrated in its attempts to penetrate through the middle, Barcelona turned to the more traditional cross-and-volley route as Dani Alves picked out Villa strolling down the middle of the box to thump his lobbed pass home for the 52nd-minute equalizer.
Messi, who had forced one save from goalkeeper Antonio ''Beto'' Bastos in the 22nd and missed with a pair of free kicks, put Barcelona ahead for good in the 60th when he used his left foot to slot in a pass from Cristian Tello after he had started the move by playing Tello wide.
It was Messi's league-leading 38th goal through 25 rounds and his 49th in all competitions this season.
Barcelona still struggled down the stretch and escaped with the victory only because Sevilla wasted its looks on goal.
Sevilla also faces a critical second leg in the cup on Wednesday when it must overturn a 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid to reach the final.
After Tuesday's decisive Copa del Rey match, Madrid will host Barcelona in the Spanish league on Saturday.