Messi scores 50th hat-trick in Barcelona win at Sevilla, Bayern Munich catches Dortmund
Anything is possible with Lionel Messi in your squad.
Barcelona fans have long known that and the sublime Argentinian provided yet more evidence Saturday when he registered a 50th career hat-trick in a comeback 4-2 win against Sevilla.
Sevilla are supremely difficult to beat at home — having lost only once previously in La Liga this campaign at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium — and so it was the perfect start in a pivotal week on the road for Barcelona.
Barcelona’s final goal might have come when the game was already wrapped up deep in injury time but it could be a crucial one for Luis Suarez since the under-fire Uruguayan — set up by Messi — scored his first league goal in four weeks.
“Today we were ourselves again and we produced a great performance,” Messi told reporters after some patchy Barcelona play previously in February.
“We went through a spell where, to be honest, we did not play our best football so that made it much harder for us to score.
“You have different moments over a season and we can’t always play at the highest level. But when we manage to get the play to flow, things always happen for us.”
Messi, Suarez and teammates next play two Clasicos against Real Madrid, one in the Copa del Rey semifinals on Wednesday — they are tied 1-1 after the first leg — and another in La Liga next Saturday.
“We won’t give up in any competition,” said Messi. “We are one step from reaching the cup final. That game is going to be very tough because it’s against Madrid, in their stadium.
“But we will go out to win and believe we can. Then we will focus on the league game. We’re going to try and win everything.”
With Barcelona trailing 1-0 Saturday, Messi sent a thunderous volley into the top corner in the 26th minute with his favored left foot. Then down 2-1, he leveled again with a right-footed finish in the 67th after the home side gave away possession.
A chip from close range in the 85th minute completed Messi’s hat-trick and Barcelona’s revival, which means Ernesto Valverde’s men lead the division by a sizable 10 points over idle Atletico Madrid.
Comebacks are nothing new for Barcelona at Sevilla, with Messi and Suarez netting in the last two minutes last season to salvage a 2-2 draw.
Good week for Martinez, Bayern
It has been a good last few days, meanwhile, for Bayern Munich.
The German powerhouse held Liverpool to 0-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday and on Saturday drew level on points with Borussia Dortmund atop the Bundesliga by edging Hertha Berlin 1-0.
The goal scorer, Javi Martinez, was an unlikely one. The holding midfielder hadn’t found the back of the net all season in the league.
But the Spaniard headed past stranded keeper Rune Jarstein in the 62nd minute as Bayern — which trailed Dortmund by nine points in late January — climbed to 51 points overall.
Perhaps it was fitting that Martinez scored, since he earned plaudits for his performance at Anfield.
Despite having 62% possession and earning 11 corners, Bayern certainly didn’t have it all its own way at home against mid-table Hertha. Twice it had to clear balls off the line and striker Davie Selke was ruled offside early in the first half after finishing past Manuel Neuer.
Hertha — which downed Bayern in the reverse fixture in September — saw defender Karim Rekik sent off with a straight red card after he tangled with striker Robert Lewandowski in the 84th minute.
By that time, the visitors were under pressure and minutes later they would officially extend their winless streak in the league at Bayern to 24 matches.
Slumping Dortmund travels to sixth-place Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.
Dortmund has yet to win in the top flight in February, even blowing a 3-0 lead against Hoffenheim at home and having to settle for a point. Dortmund also trails Tottenham 3-0 after the first leg of their Champions League tie.
Spurs miss chance
In the English Premier League, speaking of Spurs, Tottenham suffered a huge blow in its attempt to win a first league title since 1961 after losing 2-1 at surging Burnley.
Instead of closing the gap to two points on Manchester City and Liverpool — they both play Sunday, with City in the League Cup final — Tottenham remained five points adrift in third.
Angry Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino confronted referee Mike Dean at the final whistle, apparently unhappy about the corner kick that led to the game’s opening goal in the 57th minute.
“We made mistakes on the pitch and I made a mistake after,” Pochettino told reporters. “Maybe I needed to go straight away to my dressing room and get some water and be a little bit relaxed.
“If we need to justify our defeat it’s to see inside ourselves and that is the reason why we lost the game.
“It’s weird, maybe the cables crossed in my brain.”
The reverse came despite the return of Tottenham’s leading scorer Harry Kane, who netted in the 65th minute for 1-1. He had missed about a month and a half with an ankle injury.
Normally the ones scoring late goals to win, this time Tottenham saw Burnley strike in the 83rd minute through Ashley Barnes. Burnley, once relegation contenders, have won four and drawn four in their last eight Premier League outings.
Liverpool will leapfrog Manchester City on Sunday if it avoids defeat at arch-rival Manchester United, which has been revitalized under newish manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.