dpa/GNA – Barcelona moved back to third in La Liga thanks to Lionel Messi inspiring a 3-0 win over Elche at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Argentine star Messi broke the deadlock at the start of the second half by converting from Martin Braithwaite’s assist.
He made it two on 69 minutes after Frenkie de Jong’s bursting run from deep.
And on 73 minutes it was Messi’s long ball to Braithwaite that the forward nodded down for Jordi Alba to score.
Messi’ two goals mean he is La Liga’s top scorer with 18 for the season.
More importantly for Barcelona, it moves them to just two points of second placed Real Madrid and five points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand.
“We are still in the title race,” said Jordi Alba. “We have always maintained that.
“This was a good performance. It was frustrating in the first half but we found the spaces in the second period and took our chances.”
Coach Ronald Koeman praised Messi for his performance and clarified that he was not talking about his captain when he asked for more from his more experienced players on Monday.
“When I spoke about the experienced players I was not talking about him,” said Koeman.
“He keeps scoring lots of goals. It’s the others that have to start making a difference, not Messi. He is already making a difference and he did it again in this game.”
Koeman had left Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele on the bench for a game Barcelona had to win to get back in the title race.
Messi was upset in the first half after a pedestrian 45 minutes, left lowly Elche very much in the game at the break.
“Everyone could see that we lacked intensity in rhythm in the first half. It’s a good thing that as the captain Messi demands more intensity,” said Koeman.
Messi was not the only one making demands. Koeman admitted he was not a happy man at the break.
“I was disappointed with our play and the rhythm we were playing at. We were a bit slow. We were much better in the second half.”