La Liga: Barcelona 3 Malaga 0
By Football News
Barcelona returned to winning ways in La Liga with a 3-0 thumping of Malaga that saw them move back to the top of the league.
The Catalan giants dropped to third in the table after Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid won earlier in the weekend, but reclaimed their place at the summit with a thoroughly convincing performance on Sunday.
After consecutive La Liga draws against Atletico and Levante – the first time Barca went two league games without winning since May 2011 – Gerardo Martino's side dominated the first half and took the lead through Gerard Pique in the 40th minute, his second goal in as many matches.
Barca would have led by more if it were not for the brilliance of Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero, but goals from Pedro and Alexis Sanchez in the first 20 minutes of the second half sealed the result.
Lionel Messi did not score, as his league scoring drought extended to 120 days, but new president Josep Maria Bartomeu, watching from the stands, would not have minded as Barca dominated from start to finish.
Barcelona were again without Andres Iniesta (left knee) and Neymar (ankle), but that did not stop the defending champions, who were denied by the woodwork in the sixth minute when Alexis' clipped effort hit the left post.
Duda forced Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes into a diving save with a curling free-kick but the hosts were dominating, and only a sloppy first touch robbed Messi of a goal, as he lobbed wide, before Caballero clawed away a Dani Alves shot from a tight angle.
Caballero then kept out Jordi Alba and Flavio Pereira cleared Pedro's goalbound header, and while Valdes had to react quickly to keep out Marcos Angeleri's header, the chances kept coming for Martino's men.
Alba flicked onto the roof of the net before Pique finally broke the deadlock, as Xavi's corner was flicked on by Alexis, allowing the defender to chest down and power his shot past Caballero.
The goalkeeper denied Cesc Fabregas on the stroke of half-time and Alba made an important clearance after the break, restricting Bartlomiej Pawlowski a free shot on goal following Vitorino Antunes' cross.
Alexis and Fabregas were frustrated by Caballero again before Pique nodded a Xavi corner onto the post. But Pedro killed the game off in the 55th minute when he showed great skill before curling past Caballero with his right foot.
Duda's long-distance effort forced Valdes to scramble back, but a terrific Messi run led to Barca's third, as Pedro unselfishly squared for Alexis to tap in at the far post just after the hour mark.
Messi had a free-kick narrowly go over, as his search for a league goal continued, while Caballero saved superbly to keep out Fabregas in the dying stages, but three goals were more than enough for Barcelona.