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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

FC Barcelona beat Mallorca 0-2 tonight in a game that is bound to strengthen the group’s morale. Messi opened the scoring directly from a free kick in the first half and Piqué got the second with ten minutes left to play when the team were down to 10 men following Thiago’s second yellow. Despite being a man down, Guardiola’s team – with 9 home grown players on the pitch –never lost control of the game and took the three points to close the gap still further on Real Madrid.

The win was Barça’s ninth on the run and their seventh in La Liga since their defeat in Pamplona and the perfect preparation for Wednesday’s Champions League tie in Milan.

Mallorca make strong start

Mallorca came out strongly and Barça found it hard to dominate their possession in the first 10 minutes or so, but they then upped their pressure and Messi nearly opened his account, only for Aouate to stop his effort.

Messi makes it 0-1

Playing without full backs and with a three man defence made up of Piqué, Puyol and Mascherano, Barça began to get at the Mallorca goal with increasing ease and in one such attack, Alexis Sánchez won a foul on the edge of the box which Messi whipped across the area. Although it looked as if Alexis himself might have got a touch at the back post, the referee gave the goal to Messi – believing the free kick had gone straight in.

Barça now really upped the pace and Alexis came close to doubling the lead with a powerful shot that shuddered the bar.

Second yellow for Thiago

Things turned more difficult after the break when Thiago saw his second yellow for a rigorous looking handball and Guardiola reacted to going a man down by bringing on Montoya for Cesc and the Keita for Pedro.

Piqué seals the win

The changes did their trick as the team managed to continue to dominate possession despite playing with only 10 and enjoyed a number of long periods holding on to the ball and frustrating their hosts. That superiority allowed Piqué to sneak into attacking positions and on 80 minutes he was rewarded with a goal when a Messi effort came back off the woodwork for the Catalan centre back to slide home.

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