A controversial early goal from Gerard Deulofeu set Barcelona on their way to a comfortable 2-0 win over bottom-of-the-table Malaga at the Nou Camp.
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It took Barcelona just two minutes to open the scoring through Deulofeu’s first goal for the club but replays showed that the goal should not have stood as the ball was out of play when Lucas Digne crossed it.
Andres Iniesta doubled Barcelona’s lead shortly after half-time as his deflected strike nestled in the top corner after Lionel Messi had played him through and that was enough to seal the points for the dominant hosts.
Barcelona stretched their lead at the top of LaLiga to four points ahead of Valencia who continued their good form with an emphatic 4-0 win over Sevilla, while third-place Real Madrid play Eibar on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Football.
Man of the match: Lionel Messi
Malaga fell behind when Digne scampered down the left wing and after his first cross was charged down, he sent another ball in for Deulofeu to convert with a backheel. However, the ball in from the Frenchman was comfortably over the byline.
Deulofeu’s goal was the only attempt that Barcelona had in the first half despite enjoying 65 possession but it took them only eight second-half minutes to register another attempt as Messi forced Andres Prieto into a smart save low down to his left.
Then on 56 minutes, Barcelona extended their lead through the evergreen Iniesta. Javier Mascherano broke Malaga’s midfield line with a searching pass into Messi, who turned and slipped the ball through to Iniesta inside the area and his shot which looked to be creeping goalbound anyway, took a nick off Roberto Rosales and arrowed into the top corner. It was another milestone moment for Messi as he has now been directly involved in 500 La Liga goals.
Ernesto Valverde named Gerard Pique amongst the substitutes after the centre-back was sent off in midweek against Olympiacos.
Although Barcelona were nowhere near their best, it seemed a matter of time before they got their third and it should have arrived on 75 minutes as Sergi Roberto teed up Luis Suarez perfectly but the Uruguayan somehow dragged a shot wide of the post.
It summed up a disappointing night for Suarez, who appeared disappointed when substituted soon afterwards.
Messi, who had 11 goals in eight league matches prior to kick-off, thought he had added another to his tally when he nodded in from close range with just a minute remaining, however his effort was correctly ruled out for offside.
Man of the match – Lionel Messi
He might not have added to his goal tally but he was at the heart of everything for his side in the final third.
His assist for Andres Iniesta’s match-winning strike meant that he has now been involved in 500 goals in the Spanish top-flight which breaks down to 360 goals and 140 assists.
It is those numbers that mark Messi out as one of the greatest players of all time and against Malaga, he was comfortably the best player on the pitch.
Barcelona are in action again on Tuesday as they travel to Murcia for the Copa del Rey Round of 32 clash before returning to league action against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames next Saturday.
Source: Sky Sports