Lionel Messi netted his 50th career hat-trick to help Barcelona overcome Sevilla 4-2 in La Liga on Saturday and open up a ten-point lead at the top.
After shading the early proceedings, the hosts produced a stunning counter attack following Lionel Messi's uncharacteristically poor pass to score the game's opening goal on 22 minutes, with Jesus Navas finishing the move by firing across a helpless Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
However, Sevilla were only ahead for four minutes as Messi atoned for his earlier error with a sublime volley into Tomas Vaclik's top right corner from Ivan Rakitic's cross to get Barca back on level terms almost immediately.
With half time approaching, Pablo Machin's side managed to regain the lead through an unlikely source in Gabriel Mercado, who calmly finished Pablo Sarabia's cutback three minutes before the interval.
HT: #SevillaFC 2-1 @FCBarcelona— Sevilla FC (@SevillaFC_ENG) February 23, 2019
And breathe... What a half of football we've just seen at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. Let's go for more!#SevillaFCBarça #vamosmiSevilla #WeareSevilla pic.twitter.com/2ujV8rSKPQ
Barcelona were lively following the restart and managed to find an equaliser through Messi, who produced a sumptuously-placed finish into the top corner on 67 minutes for his second goal of the game.
The Argentine then produced a lovely dinked finish five minutes from full time to seal his hat-trick, while Luis Suarez added his name to the score sheet with a chipped effort of his own, assisted by Messi, to add some gloss to the full-time scoreline.
Starting XI: Vaclik (6); Mercado (6), Kjaer (6), Gomez (7), Wober (7); Navas (7), Banega (6), Rog (5), Promes (8*); Sarabia (7); Ben Yedder (7).
Substitutes: Vazquez (5), Amadou (5), Mesa (5).
Key Talking Point
Ernersto Valverde would've hoped for a reaction from his talented side following their lacklustre Champions League performance in midweek, but Barcelona once again looked out of sorts.
Individual errors looked to have cost them, with Messi's pass punished by Navas on the counter attack for the game's opening goal, while Samuel Umtiti, who was making his first appearance since December 24, played Sarabia onside in the build-up to Mercado's goal on the stroke of half-time.
Barcelona did Lionel Messi such a disservice. Where would that club be without him? He has to time and time again rescue them. They have done a very poor job of succession planning, simply throwing money at a problem rather than having a plan.— TorontoWLove2.0 (@torontowlove2) February 23, 2019
Fortunately for Valverde, Messi produced yet another fantastic display in a Barcelona shirt, netting his third hat-trick of the season to secure the win, also providing the assist for Suarez's late goal.
The Argentine was aided by the performances of Rakitic and Ousmane Dembele, the latter of whom caused problems following his introduction after half-time.
The win is just Barca's second in their last six games across all competitions, although it does open up a ten-point lead at the summit of La Liga, ahead of back-to-back games against Real Madrid next week.
Starting XI: Ter Stegen (5); Semedo (4), Pique (6), Umtiti (5), Alba (6); Vidal (5), Busquets (6), Rakitic (7); Messi (9*), Suarez (6), Coutinho (6).
Substitutes: Roberto (6), Dembele (7), Alena (6).
STAR MAN - It's hard to find any other superlatives to describe Lionel Messi, as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner produced yet another fine display in the red and blue of Barcelona when they needed him.
His slack pass that led to Sevilla's opener would be the negative of his performance, but the Argentine still took his La Liga tally to 25 for the season with two stunning drives from the edge of the area, and an impudent chipped finish rounded off the hat-trick and the win.
There was even time for Messi to lay on a goal for Suarez - his 11th La Liga assist of the season - to seal the three points.
#footballlive No messi no barca no victory for Barcelona and I wounder what barca will do without him— Akinloye Kehinde (@Akinkenny10) February 23, 2019
Lionel Messi: 50 career hat-tricks.— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 23, 2019
Next for Sevilla is a trip to La Liga's bottom club Huesca next Saturday, as they look to stay in the race for a top four place.
Barcelona have back-to-back games against Real Madrid to look forward to, the first coming this Wednesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, before facing off once again in La Liga three days later.