Lionel Messi scored a spectacular winner as Barcelona moved to the top of La Liga with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Malaga on Saturday.
The European champions were handed the perfect start when Munir El Haddadi tapped home the opener after just 64 seconds, but were far from their best and Malaga deservedly levelled through Juanpi 13 minutes before the break.
Messi had been struggling with a slight hamstring strain in the past week, but the five-time World Player of the Year made the difference once more as he volleyed home his 20th goal of the season to move Barca a point clear of Atletico Madrid in top spot.
Atletico and Real Madrid – who now trail Barca by five points – are both in action on Sunday when they face Sevilla and Real Betis respectively.
“We started with a goal in the first minute, which put everything on track, but then we weren’t good at all and perhaps 1-1 at halftime was undeserved given how well Malaga played and what we did in the first-half,” said Barca captain Andres Iniesta.
“In the second-half I think we returned to being solid and played as we normally do.”
And Barca boss Luis Enrique lauded the winning mentality of his side even when they are far from their best.
“I am left with the clear improvement of the team in the second-half and the desire the team has to get results,” he said.
“They say it is one of the most important characteristics of the big teams – to win when you play badly.”
Barcelona were without the injured Neymar and suspended Gerard Pique, but did have the luxury of welcoming back Messi and Luis Suarez after they missed the 2-1 win Copa del Rey win at Athletic Bilbao in midweek.
And Suarez made a telling impact after just a minute as he wriggled clear inside the area and although his low shot was kept out by Carlos Kameni, the ball fell invitingly for El Haddadi to tap home his fourth goal in three games.
Support InfoStride News' Credible Journalism: Only credible journalism can guarantee a fair, accountable and transparent society, including democracy and government. It involves a lot of efforts and money. We need your support. Click here to Donate