Messi helps Barcelona equal Real Madrid’s 27-year-old record

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Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Sevilla at Camp Nou on Sunday night has seen the Catalan outfit extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to a record-equalling 34 matches set by fierce rivals Real Madrid in 1988-89 season, and open up a 12-point lead over them in Spain’s top flight.

Vitolo sent Sevilla, who have lost in La Liga for the first time since January, into a surprise 20th-minute lead at Camp Nou, but goals from Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique ensured that Barcelona would record their ninth successive three points.

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring with Neymar as Jordi Alba approaches during the La Liga game between Barcelona and Sevilla on February 28, 2016

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique made five changes to the team that started against Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday, with Claudio Bravo, Aleix Vidal, Jeremy Mathieu, Sergi Roberto and Arda Turanreturning to the XI.

As for Sevilla, only Timothee Kolodziejczak and Vicente Iborra remained from the side that lost 1-0 at Molde in the second leg of their last-32 Europa League clash on Thursday night. That also meant a start for young Uruguayan Sebastian Cristoforo due to the suspension of Ever Banega.

Benoit Tremoulinas and Lionel Messi in action during the La Liga game between Barcelona and Sevilla on February 28, 2016© AFP

It was the visitors that had the first clear chance of the match in the eighth minute, but centre-back Kolodziejczak could only hook over the crossbar from close range after Steven N’Zonzi had won a high ball inside the Barcelona box.

Twice Barcelona rattled the woodwork in the 13th minute, with Luis Suarez hitting the crossbar after Messi had clipped the post direct from a corner kick, which arrived when Sergio Rico pushed a Suarez effort round the post.

It was Sevilla that took the lead, however, when Spanish attacker Vitolo volleyed an excellent Benoit Tremoulinas cross past Bravo in the 20th minute to silence the home supporters.

Vitolo scores during the La Liga game between Barcelona and Sevilla on February 28, 2016

Barcelona were level little over 10 minutes later, however, when Messi curled a stunning free kick into the top corner to score his 16th league goal of the campaign.

The home side might have scored a second in the 36th minute when Neymar found Messi inside the box, but this time, the Argentine could not beat Rico, who got down well to make the save.

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Messi continued to look the most likely to score the game’s third goal as the first period approached its final moments, but Sevilla remained a threat on the counter-attack due to the pace of Kevin Gameiro.

Luis Suarez and Neymar are unhappy at not winning during the La Liga game between Barcelona and Sevilla on February 28, 2016

Barcelona took the lead for the first time in the match less than three minutes into the second period when Pique turned home from close range after Suarez had brilliantly disguised a pass inside the box.

Gameiro should have levelled in the 51st minute when he advanced into a one-on-one situation with Bravo, but the striker could not beat the Chilean, before Rico made an equally-impressive save down the other end to keep out Neymar.

Sergio Busquets was next to try his luck from distance, but Rico made another smart save to keep the score at 2-1. From the resulting corner, Mathieu made first contact, although his header was never troubling the Sevilla goal.

Steven N'Zonzi barges Sergio Busquets during the La Liga game between Barcelona and Sevilla on February 28, 2016

Michael Krohn-Dehli had a half-chance for Sevilla just before the hour during a period where Barcelona were looking for a third, but the midfielder’s effort was wide of the post, before Roberto had a header blocked down the other end.

Suarez had a super chance to make it 3-1 Barcelona in the 73rd minute when a loose ball fell for the league’s top scorer, but the Uruguay international could not sort out his feet and Rico managed to collect.

Down the other end, N’Zonzi came close on two separate occasions just before the 80th minute, but Barcelona survived a spell of aerial pressure to lead entering the final 10 minutes of action.

The home side appeared tired late on amid a run of demanding fixtures, but the Catalan outfit held on to put another three points on the board and all but end Real Madrid’s already-slim title hopes in the process.

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