Football news - Messi on target as Barca go five points clear with win over Girona
La Liga, Estadio Montilivi - Girona 0 Barcelona 2 (Semedo 9, Messi 68)
Barcelona claimed their eighth consecutive La Liga win, beating Catalan rivals Girona 2-0 to restore their five-point lead at the top of the table.
Ernesto Valverde’s side came into the game on the back of a chastening Copa del Rey quarter final first leg defeat to Sevilla during the week, but they got back to winning ways here; not quite finding top form, yet doing enough.
Nelson Semedo gave the visitors to the Montilivi the lead after just nine minutes, scoring his first Barcelona goal by lashing home a left-footed strike after something of a scramble in the Girona box.
Girona were controversially reduced to 10 men just eight minutes into the second half, with Bernardo Espinosa shown a second yellow card for a soft foul on Luis Suarez. His first booking was harsh too.
However, the hosts rallied and had chances to equalise. It was Barcelona who scored the second, though, with Lionel Messi chipping a cute finish over the goalkeeper after a square pass from Jordi Alba.
TALKING POINT - Did the referee get the sending off decision wrong?
It wasn’t the turning point it could have been, with Girona actually picking up their performance afterwards, but nonetheless, the decision to send off Bernardo left the hosts at a disadvantage. Suarez certainly made the most of the contact and yet the officials stood by the call after the use of VAR. Did the referee get it wrong? Did it really matter in the end?
Messi Girona-BarcelonaGetty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Nelson Semedo (Barcelona)
There was a time, not too long ago, when it seemed that Semedo’s Barcelona career would peter out before it had even started. It took the Portuguese full-back, signed in the summer of 2017, a whole year to earn the trust of Valverde, but with every performance like this he becomes increasingly integral to the Spanish champions. Semedo scored the opening goal, but was also an effective outlet throughout for Barca. He is their best right-back at the moment.
9’ GOAL! Girona 0-1 Barcelona: It's an opener for Barcelona and it has come from an unlikely source! Girona didn't do well with a clearance inside the box, the ball fell to Semedo and the Portuguese full back lashes home a strike with his left foot! VAR is used to check it and the goal stands.
16’ Coutinho should score! That was a golden opportunity for the Brazilian. Messi played the pass through, Coutinho had time to pick his spot, but Bono came off his line to make the save.
42’ Save! Then off the line! Stuani was played through, Ter Stegen came out to make the save. Pons turns the rebound towards goal, but Pique was back on the line to make the clearance!
52’ Big chance, big save! Once again, Ter Stegen denies Stuani. The Girona forward was close enough to see the whites of the German's eyes, but he makes the strong save at his near post.
53’ SENT OFF! Oh dear. That's a big blow for Girona. Bernardo has been shown a second yellow card for a stamp on the heel of Suarez. Eusebio has a wry smile on his face on the touchline. Was there enough in that for a second booking?
61’ Busquets saves Barca! That could have been an equaliser for Girona! The cross into the six yard box left Ter Stegen stranded, but Busquets' slide tackle denies Portu. What a chance.
69’ GOAL! Girona 0-2 Barcelona: What a sensational goal that is! Messi has scored a second for Barcelona and that should be the points secured. Alba squared for Messi and the Argentinean dropped the keeper on the ground and chipped the ball over Bono. Fantastic.
90+2’ Coutinho was through! That was a chance for the under-fire Brazilian to find the net. Suarez played through Coutinho who rounded the keeper. But he took it too wide and the clearance was made at the near post by Alcala.
- Barcelona have now strung together eight straight wins in La Liga, giving them a five-point lead at the top of the table.
- Jordi Alba became the second La Liga player to notch 10 assists this season, after Lionel Messi.
- With his goal at the Montilivi, Messi has now scored at 36 of the 42 away venues he has played at in La Liga (170 goals).Barcelona have now scored in each of their last 32 La Liga away games, equalling their best ever run in the competition (between February 2013 and September 2013).