Barcelona maintained their four-point lead at the top of LaLiga with a 2-0 win over bottom club Malaga at the Nou Camp, where Gerard Deulofeu’s early goal should have been ruled out.
Valencia had closed the gap after thumping Sevilla 4-0 at the Mestalla, but Barcelona never looked likely to slip up in Saturday’s evening kick-off – although benefiting from a touch of good fortune in their opening goal inside two minutes.
Lucas Digne weaved into the left side of the Malaga penalty area, but his touch from a rebound off a defender took the ball out of play past the goalline before he crossed into the six-yard box where Deulofeu flicked the ball in for his first Barcelona goal. Despite the angry protest of the Malaga players, referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes remained unmoved.
Andres Iniesta doubled the lead in the 56th minute, with the aid of a deflection, as Malaga’s winless run stretched to nine matches.
What they said
Deulofeu told BeIN Sports: “I didn’t see a problem. I still have not seen a replay of the incident, but for me it was legal. I believe this, hence why I played on.”
Malaga defender Luis Hernandez, quoted by Spanish media outlet AS, said: “I can understand that they say it didn’t go out, but it’s absurd, the ball was half a metre out over the line. Once again, a decision is made that we suffer from. I always say that the referee’s job is a difficult one, but we conceded a goal against Eibar that was offside and another one against Valencia last Sunday. We are not going to blame the referees for our place in the league, but it’s hurting us a lot.”
Tweet of the match
Star man – Lionel Messi
While the mercurial Argentina playmaker did not get on the scoresheet – his late header chalked off for offside in the build-up – as usual it was Messi at the centre of all things positive for Barcelona. Effortlessly collecting a pass from Javier Mascherano, it was Messi’s touch and vision which helped to open up the Malaga backline just before the hour as Iniesta slotted in the second goal to end hopes of a comeback.
Moment of the match
Whether or not Malaga would have taken anything from their visit to the Nou Camp is, at best, debatable, but all of the pre-match planning from coach Jose Miguel Gonzalez was undone not long after kick-off when the officials failed to spot the ball had run out of play in the build-up to the opening goal. But when your luck is out, it is out.
La Rosaleda had set themselves up for a long and determined rearguard display with two banks of four, inviting Barcelona to come and try to break them down. That the defence was breached so soon obviously did not help matters, but with such a backward-looking focus, it was always going to be a case of damage limitation from then on. That said, had Gonzalo Castro’s radar found the goal rather than just past the post with the couple of half-decent openings which came their way, then you never know…
Deulofeu scored his first goal for Barcelona in his 16th appearance. Messi, meanwhile, has now had a part in no less than 500 Barcelona goals, netting 360 himself and setting up some 140.
Barcelona: Marc-Andre ter Stegen 7, Sergi Roberto 6, Javier Mascherano 6, Samuel Umtiti 6, Lucas Digne 6, Gerard Deulofeu 7, Ivan Rakitic 7, Sergio Busquets 7, Andres Iniesta 7, Lionel Messi 8, Luis Suarez 6. Substitutes: Nelson Semedo (for Deulofeu, 72) 6, Paulinho (for Busquets, 76), Paco Alcacer (for Suarez, 83) 7.
Malaga: Andres Prieto 7, Roberto Rosales 6, Luis Hernandez 6, Paul Baysse 6, Juan Carlos 6, Esteban Rolon 6, Adrian Gonzalez 6, Sergio Keko 6, Adalberto Penaranda 6, Gonzalo Castro 5, Diego Rolan 6. Substitutes: Juanpi (for Rolan, 46), Emanuel Cecchini (for Rolon, 68) 6, Borja Baston (for Penaranda, 72) 6.
Who’s up next?
Murcia v Barcelona (Copa del Rey, October 24)
Numancia v Malaga (Copa del Rey, October 24)