Lionel Messi scored the 50th hat-trick of his career as Barcelona twice came from behind to defeat Sevilla 4-2 in LaLiga.
Messi’s goalscoring love affair with Sevilla continued at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium as he has now scored more goals against them than any other team – 36 in 35 matches, including what is now three hat-tricks.
It is also a new LaLiga record for most goals against an opponent, taking his tally to 28 against Sevilla, pulling away from a tie with former Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who had netted 25, also against Sevilla .
The game had to wait until the 19th minute for its first clear-cut chance, only for a swift Sevilla break to culminate in Wissam Ben Yedder’s shot taking a deflection wide after the Frenchman had evaded the challenge of Samuel Umtiti, the defender back in action after three months out with a knee injury.
Ben Yedder was then involved in Sevilla’s opener just three minutes later as a surging run from a counter-attack, sparked by a misplaced pass from Messi finding Quincy Promes, resulted in the Frenchman picking out Jesus Navas inside the area, leaving the midfielder to drive home his first goal for 13 months.
The home side’s lead was shortlived, however, as just four minutes later Messi cracked home a stunning 16-yard volley in meeting a left-wing cross from Ivan Rakitic.
Defying their form going into the game of one win in eight league games, Sevilla went into the break with a 2-1 lead courtesy of Gabriel Mercado’s third goal of the season in the 42nd minute, with the Argentine defender striking home from eight yards after Pablo Sarabia had picked up Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s kick.
It could have been worse for Barca as on the stroke of half-time Simon Kjaer headed a Promes cross wide.
The visitors piled on the pressure after the break, with Ousmane Dembele mistiming a shot, followed by Messi seeing another effort blocked by Navas.
Just after the hour mark Messi played in an out-of-form Luis Suarez, and despite a challenge from Kjaer and penalty appeals, referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz dismissed the claims and opted not to consult VAR.
Midway through the half Messi equalised for the second time, curling home a superb strike past goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik, whose poor kick to Dembele allowed the former Spurs star to tee up his mercurial team-mate.
Five minutes from time Messi then netted the 650th goal of his career, delightfully chipping the ball over Vaclik after a shot from Carles Alena had been blocked.
Suarez wrapped up the result in injury time, ending a six-game scoreless run with a lob over Vaclik, courtesy of a Messi pass.