BARCELONA: Lionel Messi scored his first goal of the season as Barcelona beat Sevilla 4-0 on Sunday to climb into second place in the La Liga standings behind Real Madrid but ended the game with nine men as Ousmane Dembele and debutant Ronald Araujo were sent off.
The Catalans rode their luck in the early stages of the game as Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla made an ambitious start but failed to take their chances while Barca were ruthlessly efficient and scored three times in the space of eight first-half minutes.
Luis Suarez gave the champions the lead with an outstanding bicycle kick in the 27th minute and Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal then got a crucial touch on a tame shot from Arthur Melo to double Barcelona’s lead in the 32nd.
Dembele, who was named in the starting lineup ahead of 120 million euro (US$131.76 million) signing Antoine Griezmann, made it 3-0 in the 35th with a superb solo dribble and finish.
Barca captain Messi scored from a free kick in the 78th to finally get off the mark in a season which has been blighted by injuries but there was a sour end to the game for Ernesto Valverde’s side, who are two points behind Real.
Uruguayan defender Araujo had made his debut by replacing the injured Jean-Clair Todibo but was sent off 14 minutes later for a last-ditch challenge on Javier Hernandez, while Dembele was dismissed for protesting the decision.