Gerard Deulofeu scored a controversial first Barcelona goal as his side extended their lead at the top of LaLiga with a workmanlike 2-0 victory over Malaga.
Winger Deulofeu ended a 16-game wait to open his account in Barca colours by striking after only 113 seconds to conclude a move that had seen Lucas Digne carry the ball out of play before setting him up.
Andres Iniesta netted his first goal for club and country in over a year after the break to end any hopes of a Malaga comeback.
Barca were far from their free-flowing best against a Malaga side they failed to beat either home or away last season, the only LaLiga team they did not get the better of.
However, the victory saw Ernesto Valverde’s men restore a four-point lead over closest challengers Valencia, who thumped Sevilla 4-0 earlier on Saturday, at the top of the table.
Rivals Real Madrid sit eight points adrift in third and are at home to Eibar in their game in hand on Sunday.
#Messi and @andresiniesta8 #ForçaBarça pic.twitter.com/exrdXJjMNg
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 21, 2017
Malaga fumed at Barca’s opener, which saw Digne’s initial attempted cross deflect back to him off away captain Roberto Rosales before the France international clearly touched the ball beyond the byline and crossed for Deulofeu to flick in a clever volley from inside the six-yard box.
Lionel Messi wasted an excellent free-kick opportunity from 20 yards out, firing against the wall, while Gonzalo Castro headed wide from a good opening at the other end, having been set up by Juankar on the counter-attack.
There were few other clear opportunities at either end until Castro completely miskicked a volley from eight yards as Malaga, who lost Diego Rolan to a hamstring injury, went into the break one down.
Messi tested Andres Prieto for the first time early in the second half, forcing the away goalkeeper to get down sharply after creating a yard of space for himself.
Barca found their second goal in the 56th minute. Javier Mascherano and Messi were involved in the build-up before Iniesta took one touch and saw his left-footed shot deflect off Rosales and loop into the top-right corner from 12 yards.
500 – Lionel Messi has been directly involved in 500 goals in 391 appearances in La Liga (360 goals and 140 assists). Extraterrestrial. pic.twitter.com/4vAR3tdJnk
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 21, 2017
Luis Suarez struck the side netting after producing a sharp turn and strike following Ivan Rakitic’s pass, while Keko claimed for handball at the other end after his initial shot struck Digne and his follow up went straight to Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Suarez then missed a glorious opportunity to net in back-to-back league games, failing to find the target after Sergi Roberto embarked on a rampaging run before laying the chance on a plate for his team-mate.
Malaga came close to getting one back when Luis Hernandez sent a good header wide, while Messi had the ball in the net just before full-time. However, an offside flag as the Argentina forward headed Samuel Umtiti’s flick-on home meant he ended the match with just an assist to his name.
Barca continue to set the pace in the title race as Michel’s side remain rooted to the bottom of the table with just one point from nine games.
Key Opta stats:
-Lionel Messi has been directly involved in 500 goals from 391 appearances in LaLiga (360 goals and 140 assists).
– Malaga are the only side that Luis Suarez has failed to score against in LaLiga (11 shots attempted in five games).
– Gerard Deulofeu has scored his first goal in his 16th appearance for Barcelona in all competitions this term (14 shots in total).
– Andres Iniesta has scored four goals against Malaga in LaLiga, his favourite opponent in the competition.
– Barcelona have won their last 17 games at home in LaLiga, the longest active run of any team in the competition.
– Deulofeu has scored the fastest goal in LaLiga this season (one minute and 53 seconds).
– Andres Iniesta has scored his first LaLiga goal at the Camp Nou since March 2014 against Osasuna, 1315 days ago.
– Lucas Digne has made his first assist in his 20th appearance for Barcelona in LaLiga.
– Samuel Umtiti is the only Barcelona player to have attempted more than 100 passes in a LaLiga game this season (103, 98 successfully).