Lionel Messi came off the Barcelona bench on Saturday against Real Betis and took just three minutes to set up a much-needed goal for Antoine Griezmann.
The Argentine produced a genius dummy from a Jordi Alba cross to allow the ball to run to an unmarked Griezmann to slot home and make it 2-1 to Ronald Koeman’s side at the Camp Nou.
The goal will provide Griezmann with a confidence boost. The Frenchman had missed two shots earlier in the game and also saw a penalty saved by Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
It’s just Griezmann’s second goal of the season for Barcelona but should ease some of the growing pressure on the Frenchman after a slow start to the 2020-21 campaign.
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Messi to the Rescue
Messi didn’t start the game against Real Betis in what was a surprise move by Koeman for such an important game. It’s the first time this season that the 33-year-old has started on the bench.
Koeman’s assistant, Alfred Schreuder explained why Messi had been left out. As reported by Goal, he said, “we’re not talking about an injury, he’s just not fresh.”
Yet Koeman turned to his captain at half-time with the game tied at 1-1. Ousmane Dembele had opened the scoring in style for the hosts, but they were pegged back just before half-time when Antonio Sanabria leveled.
It was a good move by the Barca boss. He could have opted to take off Griezmann, after a difficult first half, but instead removed 18-year-old Fati for Messi.
Another Penalty for Messi
Messi went on to make it 3-1 just after the hour from the penalty spot. The hosts were awarded a spot-kick after Dembele’s goalbound shot was blocked on the line by the arm of Betis defender Aïssa Mandi.
The right-back was duly sent off for the offense, while Messi opted to take the penalty this time around instead of Griezmann. The captain made no mistake with an emphatic kick that flew into the top corner.
There was still time for another goal from Messi and it duly arrived in the 82nd minute after a clever backheel by Sergi Roberto. Messi ran on to the pass and smashed a powerful strike past Bravo.
The goal was Messi’s first from open play this season. He now has six for the season in all competitions and thought he’d scored again late on only to see what would have been his hat-trick goal disallowed for offside.