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Lionel Messi’s goal in the 51st minute turned out to be the game-winner as FC Barcelona shook off a determined Málaga for a 2–1 La Liga victory on Saturday afternoon at La Rosaleda.
Munir El Haddadi gave Barça the early-bird lead in the second minute of play but Málaga’s Juanpi levelled things up in minute 32.
FC Barcelona provisionally move into first place in the La Liga table. Atlético Madrid will have to beat Sevilla on Sunday to reclaim the top spot.
Despite handily winning the battle for possession (68%–32%), the Catalans were outshot 9–6 by their Andalusian counterparts. Barça goalkeeper Claudio Bravo turned in sensational performance to help preserve the victory.
The game had been underway for less than two minutes when Munir effortlessly tapped in from a half metre for a 1–0 lead. Luis Suárez bamboozled a pair of defenders deep in Málaga territory and slipped the ball along the byline and beneath Málaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni for the assist.
It was Munir’s seventh goal on the season but only his first in La Liga. Munir’s other six have all come in the Copa del Rey, which he leads in scoring.
Málaga left-winger Chory Castro came within a whisker of tying the game in the 14th minute when his shot from 20 metres was brilliantly parried by Bravo before smacking off the post.
Málaga continued to press and, in the 32nd minute, took advantage of a bungled clearance from deep in Barça territory to draw level when Juanpi beat Bravo from just beyond the penalty spot.
In the 44th, Messi appeared ready to pounce on a rebound and deposit it into a wide open net, but late-arriving defender Miguel Torres thwarted the goal with a sliding save in extremis.
Messi, however, was not to be denied.
The Argentine striker gave FC Barcelona a 2–1 lead in the 51st minute when he defied gravity to execute a textbook, mid-air volley from six metres that beat Kameni. Adriano set up the play with a precision cross from the left wing that only Messi could get to.
The goal was Messi’s 11th in La Liga and 20th overall this season.
The victory is FC Barcelona’s first on the road in La Liga since their 4–0 win at Real Madrid back on 21 November. Barça had only played twice away from home since then, but both ended in draws, 1–1 at Valencia in December and 0–0 at Espanyol earlier this month.
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