Mon, Jan 25, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Messi fires Barca to top of La Liga

Reuters, MADRID

Barcelona leapfrogged Atletico Madrid to go top of La Liga after Lionel Messi’s acrobatic volley secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory against tenacious Malaga on Saturday.

Munir El Haddadi, deployed up front in place of the injured Neymar, fired Barca ahead in the second minute at La Rosaleda on the south coast after smart work by Luis Suarez.

However, the visitors were unable to exert their customary control and 12th-placed Malaga, whose relentless pressing unsettled the Spanish and European champions, netted a deserved equalizer in the 32nd minute.

Javier Mascherano surrendered possession in a dangerous area and the ball fell to midfielder Juanpi, whose shot was deflected in off the former Liverpool player as he slid across to block.

Barca were much improved in the second period and took a 2-1 lead in the 51st minute when Messi cracked Adriano’s cross past goalkeeper Carlos Kameni.

The Argentina captain was falling away from the ball as it dropped and he caught it perfectly on the volley to send it arrowing into the corner for his 11th goal of an injury-disrupted campaign.

Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo then did well to palm away a shot from Ignacio Camacho in the 73rd minute and Kameni denied Messi a second with a superb save two minutes from time.

Fourth-placed Villarreal missed a chance to draw level on points with Real Madrid in third place when they needed a late goal from defender Mateo Musacchio to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw at mid-table RCD Espanyol.

Felipe Caicedo put Espanyol ahead in the fourth minute in Barcelona, before Manuel Trigueros leveled 20 minutes later.

Gerard Moreno, who was sent off a minute from time, made it 2-1 to the hosts in the 40th minute, before Musacchio headed in from an 88th-minute corner.

RC Celta de Vigo, who are fifth, failed to take advantage of Villarreal’s stumble when they were beaten 3-0 at Rayo Vallecano de Madrid.

Rayo and Granada climbed out of the relegation places after Granada won 3-2 at home to Getafe.

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