Alcacer shines in Messi’s 600th game for Barcelona
MADRID (AP) — On the day Lionel Messi played his 600th match for Barcelona, Paco Alcacer got the job done for the Spanish league leaders, scoring in each half to beat Sevilla 2-1 on Saturday.
Barcelona’s 10th win in 11 matches kept the Catalan club four points in front of Valencia, which defeated Leganes for its seventh straight league victory.
Messi attracted a little extra attention by becoming the third Barcelona player to reach the 600-match milestone, behind captain Andres Iniesta (643) and Xavi Hernandez (767).
Meanwhile, Alcacer, who hadn’t been getting much playing time, scored the winner by redirecting a right-side cross by Ivan Rakitic on a rainy night at Camp Nou.
“We have to take advantage of the chances we get as a starter,” Alcacer said. “I got my chance.”
He opened the scoring from inside the area after a long pass by Luis Suarez from near the midfield line in the first half.
Alcacer had scored only once in five games this season.
“I hope they will help give him more confidence,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.
Guido Pizarro equalized for fifth-place Sevilla early in the second half with a firm header that bounced in front of the goal.
Messi, who made his club debut in 2004, had an average night by his standards. He had a goal called off for offside, and was uncommonly issued a yellow card in injury time.
Third-place Atletico Madrid, eight points off the lead, needed an injury-time goal to earn a win at Deportivo La Coruna 1-0.
Defending champion Real Madrid, 11 points behind Barcelona in fourth place, hosts Las Palmas on Sunday.
Atletico Madrid avoided another poor result with a hard-fought win against Deportivo thanks to Thomas Partey’s late free kick.
Atletico’s second win in nine matches ended a streak of three consecutive 1-1 draws in the league and Copa del Rey.
“We knew how to suffer,” said Partey, who also scored on Tuesday in the draw with Qarabag in the Champions League. “In the end we deserved these three points. This win will give us a boost.”
The victory at Riazor Stadium moved Atletico to four points behind Valencia.
It was the sixth loss for Deportivo, which stayed in 16th place.
Valencia’s attack keeps impressing, having outscored opponents 28-8 in its run of eight straight wins in all competitions.
“We are not getting too excited, we know it’s difficult to maintain this,” Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia said.
Dani Parejo scored the first against Leganes from a free kick, Rodrigo added a header in the second, and Santi Mina converted a late penalty.
Italian striker Simone Zaza, who entered the game at Mestalla Stadium with eight goals in six games, was visibly upset when he was substituted near the end. He refused to greet his teammates or coach Garcia and went straight into the locker room. Zaza has nine goals for the season, three fewer than league-leader Lionel Messi.
“He wanted to play 90 minutes and got upset, but we already talked about it,” Garcia said.
Leganes, in its second season in the first division, had won three of its last five league games. It is eighth in the standings.
Alaves beat Espanyol 1-0 for its first home win of the season.
Christian Santos scored the winner one minute into the match, ending Alaves’ five-game losing streak at Mendizorroza Stadium.
Espanyol played a man down from the 39th because of a red card to defender Mario Hermoso.
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