Barcelona vs. Real Betis

Barcelona vs. Real Betis

Javier Howell
March 18, 2019

The former Liverpool striker was substituted in the final minutes of the 4-1 La Liga win against Real Betis on Sunday night, after scoring his 18th league goal of the season for Barcelona.

Messi, on 29 league goals, continued to run the show in the second half and the Betis fans were able to appreciate another remarkable display from the best player in the history of the sport.

The Argentine talisman's performance was up to the mark and it forced the Betis home crowd to give him a standing ovation.

"I can not remember anything like this before and I'm very grateful for the fans' reaction. I am grateful, we are always treated well when he played here", Messi said after his 45th hat trick for Barcelona and six for Argentina.

"No, I can't remember that happening before. We have to keep playing like we have been without giving anything away".

"Opponents also enjoy what he does despite the fact he scores against them".

Nearly immediately he made amends though, with a slalom run through Betis's defence, leaving former Barca centre-back Marc Bartra on the floor, wishing it would swallow him, before tucking home.

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Rather than take all the plaudits for himself, Messi was quick to praise the tactics of Valverde and the importance of the three points as treble-chasing Barca stretched their lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid. "We knew that we had a good opportunity to put a little distance between ourselves and Atlético and we couldn't fail". "We couldn't slip up today".

"(Real) Betis are a side that treat the ball well. But we didn't suffer at all.

"We were really well organised".

The ball was dropped back to the five-time Ballon d'Or victor just inside the box, and he produced a flawless first-time lob over Lopez, who was no more than two yards off his line but could only watch as the ball clipped the underside of the crossbar and went in.

Barca's win was tainted by a late injury to Suarez, however.

And just when it looked like he had scored his finest goals of the night, Messi notched his final strike that brought fans in the stadium to their feet.