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Montilivi was full again for Barça’s visit, and the electric atmosphere was only enhanced when Girona started the game on the front foot. The Blaugranes soon responded in kind, however, when Luis Suárez’s drilled cross was just too quick for Philippe Coutinho.
After some consistent early Barça pressure, Girona failed to clear their lines and Nelson Semedo took full advantage, firing home the opener with his left foot before 10 minutes was on the clock.
On the quarter hour, a wonderful through ball from Leo Messi found Coutinho in on goal, but his low strike was kept out by keeper Bono’s legs.
Girona continued to press Barça but the ease with which the visitors stroked the ball around ensured that the crowd soon quietened down.
Some incisive inter-play almost brought further reward for Ernesto Valverde’s side, with Girona coming close to levelling just before the break, Marc-André ter Stegen’s brilliant save denying Cristhian Stuani, and Gerard Piqué ensuring he was in the right place to clear the follow up off of the line.
Ter Stegen would again deny the Uruguayan in a one-on-one five minutes into the second half, as the hosts looked to get on terms. In Barça’s next attack, Espinosa’s foul on Suárez saw the Girona man receive a second yellow card, and subsequent red, meaning Eusebio Sacristán’s side would have to play the last 40 minutes with 10 men.
Stuani came close twice more but it was Barça who continued to control the pace and rhythm of the match, due in no small part to the introduction of Arthur.
With Girona playing a high line and a more direct game than their opponents, they were left exposed at the back when Jordi Alba was played in behind the defence. A simple ball from the left-back found Leo Messi, who scored with a trademark chipped finish on 68.
Eight in a row
Luis Suárez was off target when well placed shortly afterwards, with Bono saving from Messi and Rakitic as the visitors began turning the screw. In the last 20 minutes, chances were at a premium with Suárez foiled again in injury time.
Another important three points was also Barça’s eighth La Liga win in a row. The Blaugranes are next in action on Wednesday, January 30 against Sevilla in the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals (KO 9.30pm CET)
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