Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action with Real Betis’ Guido Rodriguez. Image: Reuters

Lionel Messi produced a hat-trick of assists as Barcelona pulled off a gutsy 3-2 win away to Real Betis in La Liga on Sunday after trailing twice in an enthralling match as coach Quique Setien enjoyed a winning return to his former club. 

French defender Clement Lenglet headed home the decisive goal in the 72nd minute from a Messi freekick but was then sent off for two bookings, moments after Betis’ Nabil Fekir had been dismissed for earning two yellow cards in the space of a minute. 

Barca had fallen behind in the sixth minute to a penalty from Sergio Canales after a VAR review showed Lenglet had handled the ball, but Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong promptly equalised with the help of a lofted pass from Messi. 

Betis restored their lead with a strike from World Cup-winning forward Fekir in the 26th minute but Barca struck back again right before halftime when Messi found Sergio Busquets with a freekick and the midfielder converted from close range. 

Lenglet’s headed goal earned second-placed Barca a first away win in the league in four matches and allowed them to cut the deficit behind league leaders Real Madrid back to three points with 23 games played after Real beat Osasuna 4-1 earlier. 

The topsy-turvy encounter was a fitting end to a dramatic week for Barca in which Ousmane Dembele sustained a serious injury, Messi lashed out at sporting director Eric Abidal and the team lost 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao to exit the Copa del Rey. 

“It was so important for us to win after losing in the Cup in the last minute but we just had to keep playing in the same way and that’s what we did,” said Barca’s Sergi Roberto. 

“It was vital that we found our form and started winning away from home again so we go home feeling happy.”

Reuters | SEVILLE

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