Barcelona and Valencia move clear at the top of La Liga
MADRID: A controversial Gerard Deulofeu strike sent Barcelona on their way to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Malaga on Saturday as they stretched their lead at the top of La Liga.
In the second minute at the Nou Camp, the ball clearly ran out of play before Lucas Digne crossed for Deulofeu, who flicked it in with a superb backheel, leaving Malaga irate.
Barcelona struggled to break the visitors down as they searched for a second, which came in the 56th minute when captain Andres Iniesta fired a deflected strike home.
Luis Suarez missed a golden opportunity as the Catalans failed to score a third but still moved four points clear of second-placed Valencia, who beat Sevilla 4-0.
"For me it's legal. I believed it (stayed on), that's why I continued," Deulofeu said on Spanish television afterwards.
In the wake of protests in the city following the Spanish government's move to reduce the autonomy of Catalonia, the atmosphere was charged.
However things were much quieter on the pitch after Deulofeu's opener, with Barcelona struggling to break down Malaga and even Lionel Messi finding it tough until he fed Iniesta for the second.
Suarez should have increased the lead when Sergi Roberto played him in but fired wide with the goal gaping, continuing a personal run of poor form with only three goals this season in all competitions. Deulofeu backed his team mate to recover quickly.
"(His goal) will come, it's the same as Leo (Messi). They are players who get a lot of chances, in the next game they will score," said the former Everton winger.
Ernesto Valverde also defended Suarez, saying the Uruguayan is a crucial component in the side, whether he scores or not.
"The aggression that he has always gives him chances. The more he misses the better, it means that he's there. He's priceless for us," explained the coach.
Unlike Suarez, unbeaten Barcelona are in excellent shape and this was their eighth victory in nine league games, keeping them four points clear of Valencia.
Marcelino Garcia Toral's similarly undefeated side continued their superb start with a convincing victory over Sevilla at a vibrant Mestalla.
Goncalo Guedes followed up his brilliant strike against Real Betis last weekend with another stunning goal, beating two men and then rocketing a shot past the helpless Sergio Rico in the 43rd minute.
Simone Zaza doubled Valencia's lead six minutes after the restart, notching his eighth goal of the season.
Santi Mina tucked home the third after being played in by the electric Guedes, with the 20-year-old Portuguese winger grabbing his second in stoppage time.