‘Without discomfort he would have played’: Ronald Koeman reveals why he left Lionel Messi out of Barcelona’s starting line-up, before he climbed off the bench to hit a brace in victory over Real Betis
- Koeman decided after the Dynamo Kiev win it was best leave Messi on the bench
- The Barcelona boss came to the conclusion Messi was not fit enough to start
- The Catalan club’s 5-2 win over Real Betis sent them up to eighth in La Liga
- Ousmane Demebele, Antoine Griezmann and Pedri were the other goal scorers
Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman always felt Lionel Messi would be ready to make a difference after the Argentina playmaker came off the bench to score twice in Barcelona’s 5-2 victory over 10-man Real Betis at the Nou Camp.
Following the midweek Champions League win against Dynamo Kyiv, Koeman opted to keep Barcelona’s talisman in reserve as his side looked to get their LaLiga campaign back on track.
Ronald Koeman started Lionel Messi on the bench but the Argentine scored twice against Betis
Messi, though, made an instant impact as his instinctive stepover set up Griezmann five minutes after the restart.
Barcelona’s captain then took responsibility from the spot after Aissa Mandi was shown a red card for handball on the line following a VAR review to rifle the penalty past Claudio Bravo.
Although Loren Moron pulled a goal back for Betis with 15 minutes left, Messi added another well-crafted goal before Pedri scored a fifth in stoppage time to seal a first LaLiga win in five games for Koeman’s side.
‘Since yesterday we discussed that he (Messi) had some discomfort since the game against Dynamo Kyiv,’ Koeman told reporters after the game, according to Marca.
‘We talked and decided that the best thing was to leave him on the bench in case we needed him. Without discomfort, he would have played.
French international forward Ousmane Dembele opened the scoring at the Nou Camp
‘We know who he is and I have no doubts about him. I see him working every day.
‘He was not fit enough to start today, but of course his presence in the second half was really important.
Koeman felt his side had deserved victory.
‘We had many opportunities and missed the penalty and we only went in 1-1 at half-time,’ the Dutchman said. ‘But in the second half we kept the team spirit and could have scored more than five.
‘It is an important victory – we needed the three points after the last results. In general the team was good and the victory is deserved.’
Antoine Griezmann put Barcelona 2-1 up after Antonio Sanabria had equalised for Betis
Pedri (far right) scored the fifth on a great night for the Catalan club, they are now up to eighth
Barcelona moved up to eighth, one point behind Betis.
Los Verdiblancos coach Manuel Pellegrini felt his side acquitted themselves well.
‘We are on the right track,’ he said.
‘It was very tight until 2-1, but with the sending-off our chances disappeared.’
Pellegrini had little complaints over the red card, which was given after referee Guillermo Cuadra opted to review the incident on the pitchside monitor.
‘The referee is on the field, not the VAR,’ he said,
‘If the referee gives the penalty and sends off Mandi, I have nothing to say, but if the VAR does, then I have to complain.’
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