Barcelona Eases Past Malaga, Remains Ahead of Madrid
Madrid. Lionel Messi’s late goal gave Barcelona a 2-1 win over Malaga to stay top of the Spanish league on Saturday after Real Madrid had won 5-1 at Tenerife to top the standings temporarily.
Barcelona dominated possession and created plenty of chances yet could not convert until Pedro Rodriguez beat goalkeeper Gustavo Munua in the 70th minute. Valmiro Lopez equalized for Malaga in the 81st, but Daniel Alves crossed for Messi’s winner in the 84th.
Barcelona has 61 points and Madrid is second on 59 points.
“In the first half, we deserved to get a goal,” Messi said. “We had to suffer but we won in the end. We can’t afford to drop points with the way that Real Madrid is playing.”
Gonzalo Higuain scored two first-half goals for Madrid. The Argentina forward hit a first-time shot with his left foot from Marcelo’s pass to score in the 29th minute. He added his 16th league goal of the season with his other foot from the edge of the area in the 42nd.
Higuain set Kaka up to score with a through pass in the 48th. Cristiano Ronaldo scored Madrid’s fourth from the penalty spot in the 79th and substitute Raul Gonzalez tapped the ball into the net in injury time.
For Tenerife, Ayoze Garcia headed the ball out of Iker Casillas’ hands and into the net in the 47th. Referee Ramirez Dominguez ignored the goalkeeper’s claim the goal was illegal.
“We’ve got some big games coming up,” Higuain said. “We’re happy, we just have to keep playing like this.”
Malaga unsettled the Barca defense in the opening minutes at Camp Nou Stadium, with Sergio “Duda” Barbosa’s free kick forcing an early save from Victor Valdes.
As Barca took control of midfield, Messi posed an increasing threat, heading a cross from Alves wide in the ninth minute. Messi then burst out of midfield in the 14th to leave the defense standing, although Weligton blocked his shot.
Munua had to stretch to push over an extravagant shot by Xavi Hernandez, who clipped a chipped pass from Andres Iniesta with the outside of his heel.
With Barcelona attacking from all angles, Zlatan Ibrahimovic looked certain to score just before the break. However, he just failed to get a foot to Rodriguez’ cross, which rolled across an open goal. Ibrahimovic had a third Barcelona goal disallowed in injury time.
Saturday’s game began at a frantic pace, and Tenerife goalkeeper Sergio Aragoneses had to rush off his line to dispossess the onrushing Higuain in the 10th.
Madrid’s Xabi Alonso was booked in the 23rd for a challenge on Garcia. Alonso made another hard tackle minutes later, and Aragoneses received a yellow card for demanding the midfielder’s dismissal. Aragoneses foiled Ronaldo in the second half, guessing right when the Portugal striker was through and attempted a chip over the keeper.
In the second half, Madrid tightened its control of the game as the Tenerife defense tired and the goals started to flow.