The Argentine bagged his 33rd LaLiga hat-trick in a Barcelona shirt as the Catalan side were too strong for Quique Setiens's Real Betis.
Lionel Messi was lauded by opposition supporters on Sunday after he scored an outstanding hat-trick in Barcelona's 4-1 win at Real Betis, which put the Catalans 10 points clear at the top of the La Liga table with 10 games remaining.
With nearest challengers Atletico Madrid falling to a 2-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao the previous day, Messi got Barca off to an ideal start by drilling a free kick into the top corner of the net in the 18th minute.
The Argentine put Barça further at ease with another strike at the end of the first half, finishing off a backheeled pass from Luis Suarez as the two South American forwards carved their way through Betis's defence.
Uruguay forward Suarez had missed several clear chances to score but he finally got his reward for a lively performance with a goal in the 63rd minute, dancing past four Betis players on a dazzling run which began in his own half.
Loren Moron pulled one back for Betis in the 82nd minute but Messi replied with a sumptuous first-time lob in off the crossbar to complete his treble and the Betis supporters responded by chanting the Argentine's name and bowing down to him.
It was an utterly dominant performance from the La Liga leaders which avenged their 4-3 loss at home to Betis in November and took them on to 66 points after 28 games, while Atletico have 56 and third-placed Real Madrid have 54.
The hattrick goal is absurd. There are great players, all-time great players, and then there is Messi. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/a35qw70PA4— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) 17 March 2019
There were worries for Barça at the end of the game, however with Suarez having to receive treatment on the sidelines after hurting his ankle.
Real Betis 1-4 FC Barcelona: as it happened
10 games left in the 2018-19 LaLiga campaign and the Catalan side hold a 10 point advantage over second placed Atletico Madrid.
The second goal from the visitors changed the dynamic of the match as Leo Messi makes off with the match ball.
90'+3' Messi strikes the post as the ref calls time on the action. Whistles from the fans.
90'+2' Fans leaving the Villamarin in droves now with the decisive result and those remaining in a stunned silence
90' Vidal drives a shot on goal which is smothered by Pau as the 4th official indicates 3' of added time
Coutinho on and Rakitic off ..final chamge from Valverde
Suarez seemsto be in some trouble as he appeared to twist his ankle aiming to stop ...
Aleña on-Suarez off /
88' Suarez looks to have picked up a knock as Barça are poised to make two changes.
Betis 1-4 Barça
As deft a chip as you will ever see. Sublime from the no. 10 !
Gooooooooooooooooooooooooool . Messsi is not of this earth ... That is incredible .... he is not human !
Too little to late from Betis one feels.
84' Vidal almost restores Barça's three goal cushion forcing a fine stop from Pau.
Betis 1-3 FC Barcelona
82' Goooool . Betis pull one back as Barça fall asleep. Loren Moron the scorer with a right footed placed strike leaving Ter Stegen with no option.
79' Ref blows for a free for Betis after Emerson was obstructed by Lenglet.
76' Rakitic rifles the ball over the ball. Not a shot the Croatian star will want to remember as any tension or spark the game held has evaporated with the 3rd goal tonight.
Carvalho off/Loren on for the home side
73' Suarez calls Paul Lopez into action again as whistles of dissent grow stronger from the home fans. Betis remaining true to their slow, possession based football which many of the Benito Villamarin complain about.
69' Messi almost releases Vidal with a defense splitting ball. Betis really on the ropes now and there's still more than 20' on the clock.
Joaquin off-Emerson on and Lo Celso off -Lainez on (RBB subs)
Semedo carded for a dive ...
65' I can see no way back for Betis at this stage ....The Betis rear-guard have looked vunerable in the second half as whistles satrt from the Villamarin faithful ... frustration more than anything else ....
Semedo on-Arthur off for FCB.
A fine individual goal from the No. 9 leaving three Betis players on the groud as he waltzes through the greem and white shirts... And there are those who say the Uruguayan is finished
Goooooooooooooool. Suarez finally gets his goal making it 0-3 for FC Barcelona.
60' Suarez goes close as the ball fizzes across the Real Betis goal-line, Betis break and Canales (who has been average tonight by his recent high standard) overhits his pass. Suarez breaks down the other end after a Bartra error sees the No. 9 one on one with Pau but the striker fails to hit the target ..what a crazy passage of play .... crazy but great to watch !
60' Possession stats on the hour mark: Betis 45-55 Barça (%)
57' Quique Setien looks a frustrated figure on the Betis touchline. As great as Real Betis fans can be, they're also quick to voice their dissent with chants calling for his dismissal commonplace at the end of recent games.
56' Canales fluffs his lines with the player one on one with Ter Stegen...miss-cues and the ball drifts out of play.
54' This game has seen waves of dominance which subside and swap to the opposing side. We're now witnessing a Barça wave with the visiting side probing as a long range Messi freekick is overhit and fails to find a team-mate.
52' Canales fires the resulting kick into the wall as Barça launch a counter.
Lenglet carded for a foul on Joaquin as he checks the veteran strikers mazy run. Dangerous free kick for Betis.
50' Unselfish play from Luis Suarez who opts to look for Messi rather than strike on goal... The tempo of the start of the second half akin to that of the first half with the ball moving from end to end in a matter of seconds...
Suarez drives a fierce shot into the side netting .... It was on his left foot to be fair to the striker.
46' Betis need to find an early goal to get the game back on track as a contest. Barça looking to avenge the 3-4 Camp Nou defeat to the Andalusian side.
46' Betis get the second 45' underway ...
No changes at the interval ...
Do try and track down the Leo Messi free-kick from tonight's first half as it really is a work of art.... Top corner and just inches away from Pau Lopez's reach.
Time called on the action as Barça head into the break with a 0-2 lead.
Cruel blow for Betis just before the break as Messi slips his marker to slot home his second of the night.
Gooooooooooooooooool Messi again after a delightful 1-2 with the Argentine and Luis Suarez.
44' Final minute of the half with Barça on the attack. The last 10' or so have dipped in intensity as the game is paused as the ref. consults VAR after the ball seemed to strike Sidnei on the arm.... Nothing called (correct decsion) and the action resumes.
41' Better from Suarez this time as he wins a corner for his side.
40' Suarez in on goal and the Uruguayan only has to fire past Pau Lopez but tamely taps the ball at the Betis stopper.
A picture of Messi's new 'look' previously mentioned.
37' Play held up again as Rakitic lies on the field after a collision with Guardado.Whistles from the home fans who feel it's a time wasting ploy.
36' Both players are now on their feet and play can resume.
35' Play held up after a clash of heads between Pique and Mandi.
34' The Betis reply from the adversity of the goal took a while but the Andalusian side are now on top.
33' Tello goes close with his rasping right footed effort whistling inches wide of the Barça post.
Messi has had a trip to the barbers with the beard now absent and a sharper cut on the nape of the neck for the Argentine. A photo will illustrate the crop much better than words!
30' 30' gone in Seville. Bright, bright game with two sides who like to retain possession but an interesting contest as Betis look to bounce back after the sublime Messi free kick.
29' Betis win a corner and the fans celebrate as if they're won the Copa del Rey ... Setien's men looking sharper now after shaking off the brief post Messi goal hangover.
26' Betis almost draw level.... The ball ricochets around the box and is cleared by the Barça rearguard. Betis' Carvalho moving the strings in the centre of the park as the men in green and white press.
24' This time Pau Lopez does well to claim the ball with Messi opting for his right of the Betis goal. Betis clearly rattled by the Messi goal.
22' Another free kick for Barça in a similar area of the pitch to the goal. Batra the offender this time tripping Vidal. Messi again to take ....
22' The goal has added a boost of confidence to the visiting side as they now play keep-ball and make Betis do the running.
20' 0-5 is how the corresponding fixture ended here last season ! A similar scoreline could spell the end of the line for Setien.
19' Real Betis 0-1 FC Barcelona
Goooooooooooooooooool .... That Lionel Messi left foot really is something else !
Ideal for the Argentine's left foot .... The 10 is over the ball .... whistles ring out from the home fans .... and Messi scores....
16' Arthur tumbled on the edge of the box as Guardado is carded. This very much is Leo Messi territory !
15' Possession after 15': Betis 51%-49% FCB
12' Suarez almost feeds Messi as Batrta dives to head the ball from danger. A couple of carless passes from Betis players offering Barça with chances to create danger. At the other end a Joaquin delivery is inches short in finding Jese with the goal gaping.
...they may not win and therein lies the issue for the many Betis fans calling for his dismissal !
9' Betis patient with their build-up play, a style personified by boss Setien and his Betis side will very possibly out possess and out pass Barça tonight....
7' Alba bursts into the Betis box but is well marshalled by Mandi who clears for a corner for the Catalan side.
5' Danger as Betis break with a through ball just overhit for Tello. The home team enjoying the brighter start of the two sides.
Looking forward to watching Sergio Canales in action tonight. Has been (for me) one of the finest players in LaLiga this season. A joy to watch and arguably enjoying the finest form of his injury hampered career.
1' Busquets and Ter Stegen get wires crossed and Betis win an early corner.
All set ... plenty of noise with the visit of the Catalan giants always a special night for Betis fans..... Off we go !
Ricardo de Burgos Bengoechea is tonight's match official
The Betis hymn rings out acapella style and is one of the finest moments for any fan in LaLiga .... The composer of the original hymn (Rafa Serna) passed away at the end of February and we'll have a minutes silence in his memory ahead of the start of the action.
Betis in green and white stripes, green shorts. Barça to wear their iconic navy and claret shirts with navy shorts.
A mild March evening in the Andalusian capital for the game with a temp. of 19C at kick-off. No rain expected and ideal conditions for players and spectators alike.
Decent crowd at the Estadio Benito Villamarin tonight, not quite a sell-out but an early estimation would say 95% full.
The 18:30 kick-off games in LaLiga have just concluded with Valencia and Getafe involved in a goalless draw at Mestalla and Villarreal coming from behind to beat Rayo 3-1 in the relegation battle.
The corresponding fixture last season saw Barcelona romp to a 0-5 win with the Andalusian outfit managing a 1-1 draw in the 2016-17 campaign. This season though Betis are one of the two sides to beat the Catalan giants this season in LaLiga. Leganes the other team in case you were wondering !
Messi poised to make another milestone for Barcelona tonight should Valverde's side secure maximum points.
Hello and welcome to our build-up ahead of live coverage from the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville as Real Betis welcome table topping FC Barcelona. The action gets underway at 20:45 CET.
Real Betis-FC Barcelona: preview
Barcelona have been presented with a gilt edged opportunity to take a step closer to retaining their LaLiga crown as the travel to Andalusia and face Real Betis in the provincial capital. Their task this evening being made that little bit easier after closest pursuers Atletico Madrid capped a grey week as the followed their Turin Champions League exit with a LaLiga defeat away in Bilbao on Saturday evening.
Betis go into the game with coach Quique Setien coming under pressure with elimination to French club Rennes in the Round of 16 of the Europa League leading to the first calls for his head further compounded by a dip in form in LaLiga and elimination from the Copa del Rey at the hands of Valencia. The Andalusian side lie eighth in the table and the Cantabrian coach is under pressure to deliver a European place for the club.
Barcelona still have a hat-trick of titles in sight, alive in the Champions League where they face Manchester United in the quarter final stage and looking forward to a Copa del Rey final at the end of May where their opponents will be Valencia, Valverde's men currently hold a 7 point cushion at the summit of LaLiga.