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Magic Messi returns to push Barcelona closer to title

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates his first goal during Sunday's 4-2 Spanish league win over Real Betis.

Story highlights

  • Barcelona two points away from league title after Sunday's 4-2 win over Real Betis
  • Lionel Messi scores twice after Barca twice come from behind at Camp Nou
  • Messi takes his tally to 60 goals this season, 46 of them in La Liga
  • Barca can wrap up 22nd league title with win over Atletico Madrid next Sunday

Lionel Messi helped Barcelona bounce back from Champions League heartache as he came off the bench to score twice against Real Betis on Sunday and edge the Catalan club closer to the Spanish title.

The four-time world player of the year was an unused substitute in the 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in Wednesday's second leg of the semifinal at the Camp Nou, apparently not yet recovered from his hamstring problem.

But he made an instant impact after coming on just before the hour mark against Betis, as David Villa was the man to make way straight after leveling the score at 2-2.

The Argentina star curled in a superb free-kick on 59, then hit the crossbar with another set-piece before -- in the 70th minute -- finishing off a low cross from Alexis Sanchez, who had been put in space on the right by an exquisite backheel from Andres Iniesta.

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It put Barca 11 points clear of second-placed defending champions Real Madrid with four games to play, meaning victory at third-placed Atletico Madrid next Sunday will be enough to seal a 22nd domestic crown.

Messi has now scored 60 goals this season, 46 of them in La Liga -- where he has found the net in his past 21 appearances.

Barcelona had made the worst possible start as seventh-placed Betis took the lead in under two minutes through Colombia striker Dorlan Pabon, who scored his sixth goal since joining on loan in January.

Sanchez equalized inside 10 minutes, heading his ninth league goal this season from Iniesta's cross, and Barca almost took the lead just before halftime when Cristian Tello smashed a shot against the underside of the bar -- the ball appeared to hit the line before bouncing to safety.

However, Betis hit back with an even better effort as midfielder Ruben Perez -- on loan from Atletico Madrid -- fired in a piledriver from long range to give his side the lead at the interval.

That lasted until the 55th minute, when Villa found space at the far post to nod in Dani Alves' right-wing cross before Messi took over.

Sevilla moved up to eighth place with a 3-0 win over Espanyol that further dented the Barcelona-based side's faint hopes of European qualification.

Real Zaragoza moved out of the bottom three with a 3-0 win that left Rayo Vallecano behind Sevilla on goal difference, while bottom club Mallorca drew 1-1 with midtable Levante.

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