BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi scored his first goal of the season to wrap up Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Sevilla in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Messi curled a left-footed free kick over the wall and into the net in the 78th minute.
The soccer great thrust his finger in the air before pumping his fist in celebration after having gone scoreless in his previous four appearances. Messi was sidelined for five games with injuries.
Luis Suarez put Barcelona on the winning path for a second time this week after netting with a bicycle kick in the 27th despite Sevilla having dominated the game. On Wednesday, the Uruguay striker had sparked a 2-1 comeback over Inter Milan in the Champions League with a superb volley before he added a fine second goal.
Arturo Vidal and Ousmane Dembele added two more goals against Sevilla in the next 10 minutes to turn what had been a tightly contested start into a demolition.
After a stuttering start to the season while Messi was out injured, Barcelona’s fourth straight victory in all competitions lifted it into second place and two points behind leader Real Madrid. Sevilla is sixth.
Atletico Madrid slipped to third — one point behind Barcelona — after being held 0-0 at Valladolid, its third scoreless draw in four rounds.
Barcelona finished with nine men after referee Mateu Lahoz sent off Ronald Araujo on his debut after making contact with Sevilla’s Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez with only the Barcelona goalkeeper to beat. Replays showed minor contact between the two players.
Demebele was then shown a direct red, seemingly for the language he used in criticizing Lahoz’s decision.
NIGHT TO FORGET
The last time Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui came to Camp Nou, his Real Madrid team had been routed 5-1. He was fired a day later.
One year later, Lopetegui must have been at a loss to see his team trailing 3-0 at halftime after it had outplayed Barcelona in the first 25 minutes, largely thanks to Lucas Ocampos’ powerful runs down the right flank and on-target passes.
Sevilla’s Luuk de Jong, however, had a night to forget. After goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made an excellent save against his point-blank shot off a pass by Ocampos, the striker had three glaring misses.
Lopetegui looked on in disbelief when De Jong’s header off another Ocampos cross failed to go in — a minute before Suarez whipped in Nelson Semedo’s cross at the other end.
De Jong’s bad luck continued after halftime when he stole the ball to leave himself in a perfect position, only to hit the post.
Atletico’s three-prong attack of JoÃ£o Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata wasn’t able to unsettle the modest Valladolid.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone sent on Angel Correa and Thomas Lemar for Felix and Morata, but they only slightly improved the attack. Atletico’s best scoring chance came in the 82nd when substitute Correa hit the upright.
Valladolid striker Sandor Ramirez squandered his side’s only good opportunity in the first half when he sent a penalty kick that he had earned high over the crossbar.
"It was very hard game, they play very well as a tight unit," Simeone said. "(It was) a game that ended in a draw that we didn’t want, but we gave it our all."
Getafe fought back once Real Sociedad was reduced to 10 men to win 2-1 in San Sebastian, leaving Sociedad in fifth place.
Iago Aspas broke his seven-game scoring drought and gave Celta Vigo a much-needed 1-0 win over Athletic Bibao. Aspas headed in the 74th-minute winner.
Espanyol fell second to last after losing 2-0 at promoted Mallorca.