Sports Desk, Nov 7 (efe-epa).- Beginning the game on the bench for the first time in 38 outings, Lionel Messi came in for an injured Ansu Fati to lead Barcelona 5-2 over Real Betis, while Joao Felix had a brace for Atletico Madrid in a 4-0 pasting of Cadiz that lifted the Colchoneros into first place in LaLiga.
Assistant coach Alfred Schreuder said that the decision to rest Messi was simply a question of rotation to cope with a compressed schedule.
Teenage sensation Fati got the start at Camp Nou, but was pulled at the start of the second half after suffering a serious knee injury.
The score was 1-1 when Messi entered the contest.
Ousmane Dembele’s goal in the 22nd minute put the Blaugrana up and Antoine Griezmann had a chance to double the lead from the penalty spot only to be denied by Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo before Antonio Sanabria equalized for Betis in first-half stoppage time.
It didn’t take long for Messi to make an impact.
In the 49th minute, Jordi Alba charged down the left side and sent a low ball in the direction of Messi. Instead of taking the shot, the Argentine left it for Griezmann, who scored into the unguarded net with Bravo focused on Leo.
Betis went down to 10 men at the hour mark after Aissa Mandi picked up his second yellow card of the match for an intentional hand ball.
Messi converted the penalty to make it 3-1 for Barça, but Loren Moron – who came on for Sanabria in the 71st minute – scored in the 73rd to keep Betis alive.
The hope evaporated less than 10 minutes later with Messi’s second goal and Pedri made it 5-2 in the final minutes of regulation.
Barcelona’s first victory in five matches left them with 11 points from seven matches and they sit eighth in the table, a point behind Real Betis.
In the capital, Atletico Madrid cruised 4-0 against a Cadiz squad with defensive problems.
Felix’s first goal came in the 8th minute as the result of a botched clearance by visiting keeper Jeremias Ledesma. A mistake by Alex Fernandez opened the door for Marcos Llorente to extend Atleti’s advantage to 2-0 in the 22nd minute.
Luis Suarez made it 3-0 six minutes into the second half and Felix completed the brace in stoppage time as both men boosted their LaLiga goal count to five.
Still-undefeated Atletico go top of LaLiga with 17 points, the same as Real Sociedad, but the Colchoneros have a better goal difference.
Reigning champions Real Madrid have 16 points and can reclaim first place with a victory Sunday at Valencia.
Slumping Sevilla eked out a 1-0 win Saturday against Osasuna with a goal from Lucas Ocampos, his first in 11 matches in all competitions.
The Argentine, one of last season’s top performers, scored from the spot to halt Sevilla’s winless streak at four games. The club are now in 11th place, one above Osasuna.
Huesca and Eibar drew 1-1 in Saturday’s other match.
Eibar, 14th in LaLiga, struck first with a goal by Esteban Burgos in the 38th minute. Rafa Mir responded with 20 minutes left to salvage a point, but draws at home against teams in the bottom half of the table won’t be enough for 18th-place Huesca to escape the drop zone. EFE