Lionel Messi proves too good for relegation-battling Elche as the Argentinian scores 2 to lead Barcelona within 2 points of 2nd placed Real Madrid in the Spanish La Liga.
Barcelona beat Elche 3-0 to stay in the hunt for the La Liga title after a top display in the 2nd half.
The Catalans outclassed their opponents at the Camp Nou in Barcelona with a professional display but failed to capitalise on their chances in the first half.
It took Barcelona only 3 minutes to have the first real chance in the game as Francisco Trincao was picked out by a beautiful first touch pass by Lionel Messi that required goalkeeper Badia to parry away.
Barca did get caught out soon after in the 6th minute as Elche came ever so close to taking the lead through Lucas Boye who just could not keep the ball down from 12 yards after some lovely work by Emiliano Rigoni in the build up to the chance.
Trincao had another wonderful opportunity in the 6-yard area but was stopped by a brilliant Badia who anticipated the player’s shot and was able to make the save in the 21st minute.
The first half ended 0-0 and Barcelona looked far from their best.
Barcelona came out rejuvenated and ready in the second half to get the job done as Ronaldo Koeman made a telling substitution by bringing on Ousmane Dembele for Miralem Pjanic. This was a good move by the Catalan head coach as Dembele added more pace and width to the Barcelona attack.
Lionel Messi opened the scoring inside 3 minutes of the 2nd half after a terrific give-and-go with Martin Brathwaite that freed up Messi into a 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper who did not stand a chance against one of the greatest footballers of all-time.
20 minutes later, it was Messi again who found the back of the net after a terrific run by Frenkie de Jong who did all the hard work and unselfishly squared the ball to Messi in the 6-yard box to make it 2-0 for the home side.
5 minutes later, there was no way back for the visitors as Jordi Alba poked the ball in from close range after a Messi cross was perfectly headed by man-of-the-match Brathwaite, to Alba who did the rest to make it 3-0 and 3 points for the La Liga giants.
Lionel Messi now has 18 league goals to go 2 ahead of former teammate Luis Suarez in the race for the La Liga golden boot.
Barcelona will face 4th placed Sevilla in a potential six-pointer game in the league and will also face them in the second-leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal to be held on 3rd March.
Sevilla is in red-hot form having won 5 consecutive league games but Barcelona have also won 4 of the last 5 games and drawn the other. It should be an intriguing contest.
Here is how things stand in the La Liga currently.