La Liga: Messi scores brace as Barcelona beat Elche 3-0

Messi reached 18 league goals with his double, moving two ahead of Atlético Madrid’s Luis Suárez at the top of the scoring list.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Elche on Wednesday- AP

Lionel Messi scored twice in the second half as Barcelona stayed near the top of the Spanish league by defeating Elche 3-0 on Wednesday.

Messi opened the scoring at the Camp Nou Stadium in the 48th minute with a shot from inside the area after a give-and-go exchange of passes with Martin Braithwaite, then added to the lead in the 68th after picking up a pass from Frenkie de Jong and fending off a few defenders before finding the net.

Messi reached 18 league goals with his double, moving two ahead of Atlético Madrid’s Luis Suárez — his former Barcelona teammate — at the top of the scoring list. The Argentina star has scored 13 goals in his last 12 matches in all competitions, and six in his last four.

Jordi Alba closed the scoring in the 73rd after being set up by Braithwaite and Messi. This was a match postponed from the first round because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The win helped Barcelona move back to third place in the league standings, two points behind second-place Real Madrid and five from leader Atlético Madrid, which still has a game in hand.

“This win helps boost the team's morale," Alba said.

“It wasn't easy after the draw (in the league) and the loss in the Champions League. But we are still fighting for the league title, there are still a lot of matches left. We have to keep fighting.

“This win helps boost the team's morale. It wasn't easy after the draw (in the league) and the loss in the Champions League. But we are still fighting for the league title, there are still a lot of matches left. We have to keep fighting," he added.

Barcelona was coming off two consecutive setbacks at home — a 4-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League and a 1-1 draw against Cádiz in the Spanish league.

It was a fourth loss in six matches for Elche, which dropped to second-to-last in the 20-team standings. It had defeated Eibar in the previous round to end a 16-game winless streak in the league.