PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Barça just go marching on. Goals from Messi and Cesc in the first 45 minutes and Thiago in the second rounded off an amazing first half to the season in which Vilanova’s team have won 18 of their first 19 games. The win was a perfect example of Barça’s collective spirit, with a wonderful performance of possession football that left Malaga with no options whatsoever.

The three points keep Barça 11 ahead of Atletico Madrid and stretch their advantage over the reigning champions Real Madrid to 18 after an incredible first half to the campaign.

Caballero called into action early on

Malaga began by pressing Barça high up the field, whilst the visitors replied with some trademark sharp passing to hold onto possession. A lovely break from Messi nearly brought about the opener, but an excellent intervention from Willy Caballero kept the scores level for the first 25 minutes.

Messi gifted the first

Minutes after the Malaga keeper had kept Messi out though , the same two players were again involved when Camacho played a poor back pass to his keeper, which the world number one was able to cut out and fire home for Barça’s opener. Cesc nearly doubled the lead soon after, only for his effort to go just wide, whilst Malaga were only functioning in fits and starts, with the combination between Isco and Joaquim potentially providing the biggest threat for the hosts.

Exhibition display

Barça upped their game a notch in the second half, with Cesc finishing clinically to make it 0-2 on 50 miutes and Busquets and Iniesta both providing some exquisite individual touches. Thiago and Alexis replaced Cesc and Pedro and the young Masia graduate scored a brilliant third with a lovely dribble and one-two with Messi before firing low to Caballero’s right.

Buonanotte consolation strike

Braça weren’t satisfied to sit back on their three goal lead and went for number four, with Sanchez unlucky not to get on the scoresheet after a one on one with the Malaga keeper, but it was Pellegrini’s team who had the last word with a majestically struck free kick from Buonanotte making it 1-3. It was only a consolation strike though, as Barça stood firm to take the three points and mark a record breaking, unbeatable 55 from a possible 57 points.