La Liga leaders Barcelona were always in control if not at their best in a 2-0 defeat of bottom-side Malaga at the Nou Camp on Saturday evening.
Barcelona 2 Malaga 0
Gerard Deulofeu scored his first goal for Barcelona after just two minutes, albeit in dubious circumstances, before Andres Iniesta fired in a deflected effort in the second half.
Malaga’s hopes of a strong start were dashed when Deulofeu scored in controversial circumstances with less than two minutes on the clock.
Lucas Digne’s cross into the box from the left-hand side came after the ball had gone out of play, but Deulofeu’s backheel stood, even after the Malaga players had stopped in anticipation of a corner.
The visitors responded with Diego Rolan heading inches wide from their own corner while Ivan Rakitic so nearly connected to an Andres Iniesta ball over the top that Andres Prieto did well to see out of play.
Adalberto Penaranda smashed a 17th minute effort into the legs of Javier Mascherano after a quick Malaga counter, while after a wasted Messi free-kick, Digne gifted possession to Juankar, who found Chory Castro in space from a great cross, but the winger only succeeding in nodding his header wide of the post.
An unmarked Castro then kicked the air when the ball was floated to him at the far post for another excellent chance, as the half drew to a close.
But seemingly still undeterred by the injustice of the early goal they conceded, a lively Malaga emerged for the second half, with Roberto Rosales testing Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a stinging drive.
But Barca were always going to be a threat, and with 53 minutes on the clock Messi gave another glimse of his magic as he weaved his way into a shooting position and fired in low at Prieto, but the keeper got down well to smother the ball before Hernandez completed the clearance.
It was Iniesta though, with just 56 minutes on the clock, who doubled the league-leaders’ lead, after Messi had expertly controlled a Mascherano ball before feeding his teammate, whose deflected shot off Rosales looped into the top of the goal.
Suarez did well to spin past Paul Baysse moments later but could only fire into the side-netting as Keko fired into the arms of Ter Stegen on 66 minutes.
Suarez’s poor form in front of goal continued with a shot he dragged wide from inside the six-yard-box as Hernandez came close to pulling a goal back with a header that flew inches wide.
Suarez was soon replaced by Paco Alcacer, following Sergio Busquets, who made way for Paulinho and the Brazilian’s first involvement saw him volley well over the Malaga goal before firing a shot into the bottom corner of Prieto’s goal, that the keeper got down well to palm away.
And Messi was offside as he fired home for the last piece of action of this composed if not commanding performance from the league leaders.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 21, 2017