Lionel Messi came off the bench to bring Barcelona back to win 3-2 from a goal down against Real Betis, but it was winger Francisco Trincao who stole victory by choosing the right moment to score his first club goal.
The unexpected decision to keep Messi and the in-form Frenkie de Jong out of his starting lineup was made by Barca coach Ronald Koeman, maybe with the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg at Seville next week in mind, and he saw his side fall back to a Borja Iglesias counterattack strike in the 38th minute.
In the 59th, less than two minutes after coming on, Messi leveled for Barca and then helped his side find a second goal by releasing Jordi Alba with a sumptuous pass that caused Betis defender Victor Ruiz to send the ball into his net.
By powering in a header from a Nabil Fekir free kick in the 75th minute, Ruiz made amends, but Portuguese Trincao had the final say, smashing a shot from just inside the box in the 87th off the crossbar to finally get off the mark for Barca in all competitions in his 17th outing.
Trincao told reporters, “I didn’t need to score for my good but you have to help out when you can and I’m very happy that we managed to get the win,”
“My teammates have always encouraged me and they all congratulated me on the goal.”
Barca, who have won their last six league games, is second in the 43-point table, seven behind Atletico Madrid’s two-game leaders.
In a Copa del Rey quarter-final tie on Wednesday, the Catalans also pulled off a remarkable comeback victory against Granada, clawing their way back from two goals down to win 5-3 in extra-time.
In the 12th minute, Barca defender Ronald Araujo was forced off with an ankle problem and Koeman took another unorthodox move by sending De Jong to the centreback deputy, who has recently reinvented himself as an attacking midfielder.
Thanks to their star-studded attack, particularly after Messi and Trincao came on in a double change from Koeman, the Catalans produced another chaotic display in defense but compensated.
“We changed our attitude in the second half and that was the most important factor in getting the victory,” Trincao said.
“In the first half we were a little fearful and we didn’t take many risks.”