Lionel Messi scored twice on his first appearance in almost two months as Barcelona edged towards the quarter-finals of Spanish soccer’s Copa del Rey with a 4-0 win over Getafe in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
The four-time world player of the year replaced Andres Iniesta after 63 minutes with Barcelona leading 2-0 thanks to a Cesc Fabregas double.
Messi put the tie to bed a minute from time when he slotted home a loose ball inside the area.
And he added his 16th goal of the season with a stunning run and finish to round off the scoring in stoppage time.
With Messi having been out of action since tearing his hamstring in the 4-1 win over Real Betis in early November he was left on the bench by Barca boss Gerardo Martino.
The Argentine coach also had Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash away to Atletico Madrid in mind as he made six changes to the side that started last weekend’s 4-0 win over Elche.
However, with Messi and Neymar – ruled out by a stomach bug – again not in the starting line-up, Martino maintained the front three of Alexis Sanchez, Pedro Rodriguez and Fabregas.
Martino’s selection proved inspired as Pedro’s lobbed cross was expertly headed into the far corner by Fabregas after just eight minutes.
However, Getafe then managed to stifle Barca from creating too many clear-cut chances before the break and the hosts were grateful for a great save from Jose Manuel Pinto to turn away Juan Rodriguez’s header to go in ahead at halftime.
Barca did finally have the breathing space they craved when Juan Valera upended Pedro inside the area and Fabregas blasted the resulting penalty into the top corner.
That set the scene for Messi’s arrival and he didn’t disappoint as he calmly slotted home a loose ball inside the area with his trusted left-foot after Martin Montoya had burst into the Getafe box.
The best was still to come, though, as Messi embarked on a trademark run through the Getafe defence before slamming high past Jordi Codina to leave next week’s second leg in Madrid a formality.