Millennium Post

Messi rescues unbeaten Barca

Seville: Lionel Messi rescued Barcelona's unbeaten season as the La Liga leaders scored twice in the last three minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw at Sevilla.
Messi came off the bench with his team two goals down at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan as Luis Suarez pulled one back in the 88th minute, before the Argentinian struck the equaliser a minute later.
Barcelona had not lost a league game this term, or in 13 months, but finishes from Franco Vazquez and Luis Muriel looked to have sealed Sevilla a stunning victory.
But Messi came up trumps again and he celebrated his goal, a bending long-range strike into the bottom corner, by rushing to the jubilant coaching staff and substitutes on the touchline.
He had been left out of the starting line-up due to a hamstring complaint, with coach Ernesto Valverde perhaps keeping one eye on Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final against Roma.
But he still made the decisive intervention even if Barca's draw means Atletico Madrid can cut the gap at the top to nine points by beating Deportivo La Coruna at home on on Sunday.
Sevilla, meanwhile, are still 13 points adrift of the top four, havng played a game more than Valencia, and must recover in time for their own Champions League clash against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
They would have been deserving winners here and, in truth, could have been out of sight had Muriel and Vazquez finished any number of dangerous breaks in the second half.
Sevilla were the better side for the opening half an hour and took a deserved lead in the 36th minute when Joaquin Correa shuffled into the area and chipped a cross into Vazquez. He poked a weak finish but it was just enough to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The hosts doubled their lead when Ever Banega's stinging shot was pushed out too centrally by Ter Stegen, allowing Muriel to take a touch and guide the ball into the corner.
Messi came on for Ousmane Dembele just before the hour mark but Sevilla could have been three up, Jesus Navas missing the best chance as his one-on-one was cleared off the line by Gerard Pique.
They were made to pay the price as Suarez turned in from close range before the ball rolled tantalisingly out to the left foot of Messi, and he drilled it into the corner.
Earlier, Real Madrid overcame the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo to defeat Las Palmas 3-0 and move within a point of second-place Atletico Madrid in the La Liga on Saturday.
With Ronaldo rested for Tuesday's visit to Juventus in the Champions League quarterfinals, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema took over to give the defending league champions a comfortable win in the Canary Islands.
Bale opened the scoring in the 26th minute after a long throughball by Luka Modric, making a run from near the midfield line before entering the area and finding the top corner with a powerful left-footed shot.
Benzema added to the lead by converting a 39th-minute penalty kick after Lucas Vazquez was fouled inside the area, and Bale netted his second goal by converting another penalty kick early in the second half after he was brought down inside the box.
"It's an important victory going into the game against Juventus," Vazquez said. "We are going through a good moment."
In addition to Ronaldo, coach Zinedine Zidane also rested defender Sergio Ramos, midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon, left back Marcelo, and midfielder Toni Kroos.
Defender Nacho Fernandez had to be replaced in the first half because of an apparent muscle injury in his right leg.
Madrid is out of contention for the Spanish league title but Ronaldo remains in the race for top scorer with 22, four less than Lionel Messi, who scored in Barcelona's 2-2 draw at Sevilla.
Las Palmas stayed in 18th place, seven points behind Levante, the first team outside the relegation zone. Celta Vigo's Brais Mendez scored a last-gasp goal to draw 1-1 against host Athletic Bilbao in the 30th round of La Liga, keeping their Europa League dream alive.
Athletic's Unai Nunez found the back of the net in the 55th minute on Saturday, seizing on a ricochet off the woodwork after a header by teammate Raul Garcia, reports Efe.
Athletic lacked a bit of luck - and constancy in the final stretch - against Celta as they squandered many chances, in addition to referee Del Cerro Grande denying Athletic's claims for three penalties.
The home side's first claim was after Gustavo Cabral touched the ball with his hand, then when Lucas Poye downed Iñaki Williams, who was later denied a second penalty request.
One minute into the second-half stoppage time, Mendez drew level for Celta on a close-range shot off a cross by Hugo Mallo.
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