Lionel Messi’s brilliant volley proved the match winner as Barcelona returned to the summit of the La Liga with a hard fought 2-1 win over Malaga at the Estadio La Rosaleda on Saturday.
Munir El-Haddadi who was making a rare start gave the away side with a simple tap in from a Luis Suarez pass but Juanpi Anor leveled scores before the break. Six minutes into the second half Barcelona took the lead as current FIFA Ballon d’Or Lionel Messi volleyed past Carlos Kameni for 2-1.
Lionel Messi picked up a knock in the midweek 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao but he was given the green light to feature at La Rosaleda, although there was no such luck for the No 11, who was suffering from hamstring pain.
Elsewhere, Claudio Bravo returned in goal, with Aleix Vidal, Thomas Vermaelen and Adriano all coming into the back four. In midfield, Arda Turan dropped into Ivan Rakitic’s place, the Croat being demoted to the substitutes’ bench, while Luis Suarez returned from his Copa del Rey suspension and Munir kept his place in attack following his goal at San Mames.
Barcelona made a flying start at as Messi’s visionary through ball cut through the hosts’ backline and reached Suarez, who got to the right-hand byline and squared across Carlos Kameni’s goal for Munir to make a simple tap-in.
Having shown magnificent resolve to not only regain their composure but take charge of the first half, Malaga began with a pair of Duje Cop headers, which kept Bravo on his toes.
Gerard Pique was absent due to a one-game ban for an accumulation of five yellow cards, and his presence was sorely lacking as Bravo’s poor clearance handed Malaga a gift, which Mascherano just about pulled from under Charles’ feet, before the striker and Chory Castro got their lines crossed as they were released in behind by Vermaelen’s awful misjudgement.
Malaga continued to probe in and around the Barca box with great intensity, and they finally got their just rewards, Juanpi getting in between both of La Blaugrana’s centre-backs and poking a finish past the Chilean.
The visitors who almost got a second went into the break at 1-1 as Munir’s low shot in the box was parried away by Kameni but only to Messi, who expected to simply mop up the rebound but was dealt a last-ditch surprise when Miguel Torres flew in from out of nowhere to block the Argentine.
Luis Enrique made an inspired substitution at half-time, bringing on Jeremy Mathieu for Vermaelen as the Frenchman immediately plugged Barca’s shaky defence, and just six minutes later, Messi acrobatically met a cross at the far post and turned the ball home, albeit without the cleanest contact.
Disappointingly for the hosts, who have now lost back-to-back games, having gone six unbeaten prior to last week, they were no match for La Blaugrana after the goal and had to wait until injury time via Chory Castro’s header for an opening, which Bravo ultimately gathered.