Messi double gets Barca back on track
BARCELONA: Barcelona put pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid by picking up their first win in four games as two second-half strikes from Lionel Messi and one from Luis Suarez secured a 3-0 win at struggling Osasuna on Saturday.
The champions missed a slew of chances in a dominant first- half display but their class eventually shone through when Messi unlocked the hosts’ defence in the 59th minute by threading a pass between four defenders to meet Jordi Alba’s run into the area.
The left-back squared the ball for Luis Suarez to tap home.
In similar fashion, Alba set up Messi to side-foot in his first goal in the 73rd after substitute Denis Suarez played Alba clear.
Messi got his second goal in stoppage time, when the Argentine wizard toyed with the Osasuna defence, picked his spot and rifled home a left-footed strike to move ahead of Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo as the league’s top scorer with 11 goals.
Barca are second in the standings and provisionally moved three points behind Real, who were hosting Deportivo La Coruna later on Saturday hoping to set a club record of 35 games unbeaten in all competitions.
Barca were in desperate need of a lift after conceding in the last minute to Real in last weekend’s El Clasico.
“We knew that once we scored the first goal the match would open up for us, and thankfully the goal came soon enough,” Suarez said.
The Catalans’ upturn in performance since captain Andres Iniesta’s return from a six-week injury layoff continued in the first half at Osasuna, but Barca were in danger of paying for their profligacy in front of goal as Suarez and Messi both went close to scoring several times early on.
Suarez shot wide and sent another attempt off the post before Messi failed to beat goalkeeper Nauzet Perez twice from close range.
Osasuna’s best threat came when Sergio Leon’s long-range lob hit the crossbar in the 49th.
Barcelona were without the suspended Neymar. Arda Turan started in his place and combined well with Iniesta and Alba on the left of Barcelona’s attack, before Denis Suarez replaced him after the opening goal.
Promoted Osasuna remained bottom and winless at home since their return to the top tier.
On Friday, Malaga’s chance to set a club record for consecutive home victories was ruined by a 1-1 draw with Granada.
The draw came after five wins in a row at La Rosaleda Stadium.
Midfielder Ignacio Camacho put the host ahead in the first half when he was left alone in the centre of the area to head Roberto Rosales’ cross off the post and into the net.
Malaga controlled the match until Artem Kravets scored a header from Alberto Bueno’s free kick in the 81st.
While Malaga climbed into eighth place, Granada remained in the relegation zone and winless on the road this season.