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Luis Suárez and Jordi Alba celebrate the game-winning goal / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Messi battled hard all day but couldn't find the net / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

With Leo Messi lurking just shy of the all-time La Liga scoring record and with Neymar and Luis Suarez starting the game on the bench, it was a late score by Jordi Alba that completed FC Barcelona's thrilling come from behind 2-1 victory over a surprisingly aggressive Almería side.

On a beautiful sun-soaked afternoon in the south of Spain, Almería took the field with tight man-to-man defence. Both sides exchanged possessions in the opening minutes until Messi and Munir El Haddadi led a Barça counterattack, stemming from an Almería corner kick, with each having a shot blocked in a scramble right in front of the net.

Chances aplenty

By the quarter hour mark, it was evident that the hosts had no plans to back down. Despite Almería’s hard work, Barça did have their chances. Perhaps their best opportunity came in the 28th minute, as Ivan Rakitic and Messi had back-to-back headers denied. Rakitic’s was turned away by a diving Rubén and Messi’s hit the bar.

With Barça threatening again in the 37th, Messi was dancing outside the area, carrying the ball and looking for space. He was bottled up by the Almería defence, who stole the ball, made a quick outlet pass and, in a blink, sent Thievy on a breakaway toward Claudio Bravo. Thievy’s shot went just out of Bravo’s reach and inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.

Reinforcements

After the break, Luis Enrique sent on Neymar and Luis Suárez to try and get the Barça offense back on track. But Almería continued to display their toughness and kept Barça safely at bay until the 16-minute mark, when Luis Suárez sent a textbook volley clanging off the bar.

Another dozen minutes passed by with the midfield bogged down into a chess match. Barça, as usual, upped their time of possession, while the opposition tried in vain to sew up open passing lanes.

Finally, in the 28th minute, Barça broke through. Luis Suárez, looking ever more comfortable, made a nice individual play on the edge of the area to avoid one defender and send a low cross to Neymar. The Brazilian banged it home to knot the game at one apiece.

A brand new game

With new life, Barça pressed for the go-ahead goal. Suarez sent a low shot just wide. Two minutes later, he cleared space and found a cutting Messi, who sent yet another ball careening off the crossbar.

In the 37th minute, Luis Suárez received another ball on the wing, this time from Rakitic. Suarez broke toward the end line and floated a cross that found a charging Jordi Alba. The fleet-footed defender one-timed into the net to complete the dramatic comeback and send Barça home happy.

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