Messi scores 26th goal of the season as Barcelona reopen lead


Lionel Messi scored his 26th goal of the season as Barcelona re-established their five-point lead at the top of La Liga with victory over 10-man Girona.

Barca saw their lead cut by Atletico Madrid’s win over Levante on Saturday, but eased past neighbours Girona.

Nelson Semedo swept home the opener on 10 minutes, while Messi dinked in a lovely finish the second half.

Girona defender Bernardo was dismissed for two yellow cards in a match which could have been played in Miami, USA.

Champions Barca had support from La Liga for the contest to be staged at the Hard Rock Stadium, but withdrew the proposal in December after the Spanish Football Association (RFEF) and players’ union (AFE) objected.

Ernesto Valverde’s side could have had a more comfortable margin of victory, but Girona goalkeeper Bono saved efforts from Messi and Luis Suarez.

Home side Girona had plenty of chances of their own, but former Middlesbrough striker Cristhian Stuani could not find a way past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, being denied three times by the Germany international goalkeeper.

Barca face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg.


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