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CAMP NOU, Barcelona — Ousmane Dembélé, Luis Suárez, and Lionel Messi notched one goal apiece as FC Barcelona rolled to their seventh win in a row, a 3-1 La Liga victory over Leganés on Sunday night at Camp Nou.
It was an especially savory triumph for the Catalans, who lost to Leganés — one of just two teams to topple the Barça this season — back on September 26th.
The win keeps Barça five points clear of Atlético Madrid at the top of league standings, and ten points ahead of third-place Real Madrid.
Messi’s goal was his league-leading 18th of the season, and Suárez’s was his 15th, reaffirming their positions as the league’s top two goal scorers. Dembélé’s goal was his 13th of the season across all competitions, a career best. Suárez also moved into the Club's all-time top five list.
Dembélé came off late with a sprained left ankle. He will examined further on Monday.
After Barça monopolized the ball for the better part of 30 minutes — at one point reaching 77% possession — Dembélé put Barça up in the 33rd. The 21-year-old Frenchman juked two Leganés defenders as he came into the final third, then found Jordi Alba on the wing before Alba completed the give-and-go, with Dembélé’s one-time shot caroming off the inside of the right post and into the net.
Barça continued to keep Leganés at bay, with the midfield work of Arthur Melo and Sergio Busquets serving as the linchpins and allowing the Catalans to saunter off to the dressing room at halftime leading by the minimum.
Things went unchanged after the break until Leganés broke through in the 57th. Martin Braithwaite sneaked behind the Barça defense and redirected a cross from Youssef En-Nesyri past goalkeeper Marc ter Stegen to knot things up at a goal apiece.
Moments before, Messi, who was not in the starting eleven — likely to give him some rest just days ahead of a big mid-week Copa del Rey quarterfinal clash at Sevilla — popped out of the dugout to warm up. Messi’s appearance elicited a thunderous roar from the Camp Nou fans.
Valverde’s move paid dividends almost immediately.
Six minutes later, in the 71st, Messi unleashed a wicked shot straight at Leganés goalkeeper Iván Cuellar. But it was too hot to handle for Cuéllar, and when the ball popped straight up into the air, Suárez pounced, beating Cuéllar to the ball and smashing home the rebound to put Barça back in front, 2-1. The collision left Cuéllar down on the turf, but the VAR ruled in favor of Suárez, thus confirming the goal.
Then, in injury time, Messi put the game out of reach with a right-footed shot past Cuéllar into the top shelf. It was Messi’s 22nd career goal as a substitute, which is now two-more than any other player has scored as a sub in La Liga in the 21st century.
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