Sport

Spanish League: Barcelona equals record thanks to Lionel Messi v Sevilla

Lionel Messi scored with an unstoppable free kick as Barcelona came from behind to beat Sevilla 2-1 on Sunday and equal a 34-game winning run that kept the champions on track to retain their Spanish league title.

Sevilla's Victor 'Vitolo' Machin struck first for the visitors in the 20th minute, but Messi curled home his free kick 11 minutes later before Gerard Pique put Barcelona ahead just after halftime.

Barcelona closing in on league title

Lionel Messi scored with an unstoppable free kick as Barcelona came from behind to beat Sevilla 2-1 on Sunday and equal a 34-game winning streak.

Barcelona equalled Madrid's record unbeaten streak in all competitions from 1988-89.

Barcelona's last loss in any competition was at Sevilla on October 3.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, duels for the ball against Sevilla's Sebastian Cristoforo.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, duels for the ball against Sevilla's Sebastian Cristoforo. Photo: Manu Fernandez

"The record means nothing to me," said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. "If we win the title, fine, but if not, then it means nothing to me."

Luis Enrique's team are on course to win the league. In fact, they have a chance to repeat their rare treble of league, cup and Champions League trophies from last year.

Barcelona's 10th consecutive Liga win maintained their eight-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid. Third-place Real Madrid, who lost 1-0 to Atletico on Saturday, fell 12 points behind the pacesetters with 12 rounds to go.

Sevilla, who remained dangerous until the final whistle, slipped down to sixth place.

Unai Emery's team will have the opportunity to avenge the defeat when they meet Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final on May 22.

"It's tough for a defeat to strengthen you," Emery said. "To beat Barca you have to find that extra something because we are probably talking about the best team in the world."

Elsewhere Sunday, Villarreal eased to a 3-0 win over 10-man Levante to cement their hold on fourth place, while Athletic Bilbao won 3-0 at Valencia, who started with Diego Alves in goal ahead of Jaume, in a preview of their Europa League round-of-16 clash.

Granada squeezed out a 1-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna in the debut of coach Jose Gonzalez to escape last place and push Levante to the bottom.

Sevilla stunned the Camp Nou crowd when Machin volleyed beyond goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

The visitors then held firm at the back, until Messi's sublime free kick after Luis Suarez earned a dangerous free kick on the edge of the area.

The Ballon d'Or holder did the rest, bending a left-foot shot over the wall and into the net, giving goalie Sergio Rico no hope of making a save.

Messi, who scored both goals in Barcelona's 2-0 win at Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday, recorded his 30th goal of the season in all competitions.

"It's not for nothing that Messi is the best in the world," Machin said. "It seems like he scores every free kick he gets against us."

After his goal, Messi was the motor in Barcelona's attack, which hemmed Sevilla into their area.

Sevilla got a reprieve at halftime, but Barcelona didn't have to wait long for Suarez to exchange passes with Messi before slipping the ball over for Pique to score from close range in the 48th.

"Messi does it all," Pique said. "He is incredibly talented and has a special vision of the game. There are teams that cope with him better than others, but it is impossible to stop him."

AP