Lionel Messi snatches Barcelona a point at Sevilla

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Lionel Messi came off the bench to net a stunning last-minute equaliser as LaLiga leaders Barcelona fought back from two-goals down to draw 2-2 at Sevilla.

Coach Ernesto Valverde had opted to start with Messi, who has been carrying a hamstring problem, on the bench, but it was defensive frailties which were brutally exposed at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Franco Vazquez fired the home side, who are chasing a top-five finish, into the lead after 36 minutes and there looked no way back when Colombia forward Luis Muriel added another early in the second half.

Barca’s talisman was sent on for the last 30 minutes and after Sevilla had missed several chances to kill off the match, Luis Suarez set up a grandstand finish before Messi clipped in a dramatic equaliser.

The draw saw Valverde’s men extend their unbeaten LaLiga run to 37 matches and edged them closer to regaining the title.

With key Champions League quarter-final games coming up next week, both coaches opted to make some changes.

Sevilla, who host German side Bayern Munich on Tuesday, faced some early pressure from the visitors, with Andres Iniesta’s lofted effort dropping wide before Suarez sent a cross from Jordi Alba wide.

The home side soon started to gain momentum, however, as Muriel nodded wide at the far post before, in the 21st minute, Joaquin Correa headed over.

Correa, though, got his positioning just right to help Sevilla take the lead when some neat passing picked out Vazquez to slot in.

Just before half-time, defender Gerard Pique stabbed wide at the far post from Samuel Umtiti’s cross.

Sevilla doubled their lead five minutes into the second half.

Vazquez forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a smart save, only for the rebound to fall to Muriel, whose deflected shot went in off a post.

The home side should have put the result beyond doubt, but Gonzalez Navas saw his shot blocked on the line by Pique before Vazquez lashed the loose ball wide.

Messi replaced Ousmane Dembele in the 58th minute and Barca were immediately lifted.

Suarez saw his sliding effort come back off a post after being picked out by Alba.

Muriel, though, spurned another chance when through on the break, before Barcelona resumed their onslaught.

Philippe Coutinho stabbed wide, the ball coming off his knee, and Ivan Rakitic’s header at a corner then struck the upright.

Finally Barca broke through, as Suarez bundled the ball in at the back post with just two minutes left.

That was time enough for Messi to have the final say, latching onto a ball at the edge of the penalty area before dispatching a low, left-foot shot past Sergio Rico and into the bottom corner.

Barcelona remain 12 points clear at the top, with Atletico in action on Sunday, while Sevilla are still sixth, a point behind Villarreal who also have a game in hand.

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