Barcelona, Spain – Lionel Messi came on as a second-half substitute and scored two goals to lift Barcelona to a 4-2 win over Real Betis on Sunday at the Camp Nou.
Messi missed both legs of Barcelona's Champions League semifinal defeat to Bayern Munich with an injured hamstring, but came on just in time to make sure his club took a vital three points.
Alexis Sanchez and David Villa also scored for the Catalans, but it was Betis that had the better of the play early on as Dorlan Pabon got on the end of headed pass from Jorge Molina and slid it home for the first goal of the day just two minutes in.
Barcelona found an equalizer seven minutes later when Andres Iniesta lifted a nice ball into the box and Alexis Sanchez nodded it home with a great diving header.
Two minutes before the break, Betis snatched the lead back when Ruben Perez scored his first La Liga goal via a spectacular right-footed strike into the top left corner from well outside the Barca penalty area.
But Villa pulled his side level in the 56th minute after getting on the end of a cross from Dani Alves and nodding it home with another diving header. The match turned in Barca's favor just moments later when Villa was subbed out in favor of Messi.
The Argentine superstar elicited a roar from the crowd upon his arrival to the pitch and made his presence felt just six minutes later when he ripped an impeccable free kick into the top right corner of the net for a 3-2 advantage.
Messi finished off the result for his club when he was played through via a nice ball from Sanchez and tapped it home from in close in the 71st minute to secure three points for the Catalans, who are 11 points clear of second-place Real Madrid with four matches to play.
Mallorca 1, Levante 1
Mallorca, Spain - Tomer Hemed and Robert Acquafresca traded first-half goals on Sunday as Mallorca and Levante played to a 1-1 draw at the Iberostar Stadium.
Hemed opened the scoring for the hosts just seven minutes into the match and Mallorca appeared poised to take their one-goal advantage into the break, but Acquafresca scored in the 42nd minute to put the side back on level terms.
Both clubs sent numbers forward in search of a winner in the second half, but it never materialized and the sides settled for a point apiece.
Real Zaragoza 3, Rayo Vallecano 0
Aragon, Spain - Apono scored on each side of halftime on Sunday as Real Zaragoza eased past Rayo Vallecano, 3-0, at the Estadio La Romareda.
The hosts grabbed the lead in the 26th minute when Apono converted a spot kick and took their one-goal margin into the locker room at the break.
In the second half, Rodri made it 2-0 for Zaragoza in the 50th minute and Apono netted his second of the match in stoppage time to secure the result for the home side, which moved out of the bottom three with 33 points.
Sevilla 3, Espanyol 0
Seville, Spain - Sevilla moved into eighth place in La Liga on Sunday following a comfortable 3-0 result over Espanyol at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
The home side opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a bit of good fortune as Espanyol defender Joan Capdevila directed it into his own net to give Sevilla the early one-goal margin.
Sevilla found a second goal in the 19th minute when Jesus Navas whipped a corner kick into the box for Coke Andujar, who fired a rising shot into the top right corner.
Four minutes later, Alvaro Negredo made it 3-0 for Sevilla when he fired one home from close range following a corner kick. The result leaves Espanyol in 11th place on 43 points.