Messis late winner rescues Barcelona

MADRID: Argentine Lionel Messi scored a vital 83rd minute winner as Barcelona pushed Real Madrid off the Spanish league summit with a nervy 2-1 win over Malaga at Camp Nou on Saturday.

Real Madrid’s convincing 5-1 win at Tenerife earlier had nudged Barcelona into second but the treble winners responded with a gritty victory to re-establish their two-point lead at the top. Pedro Rodriguez had put Barca ahead on 68 minutes but substitute Valmiro Valdo equalised on 80 minutes to stun the champions. However, three minutes later Xavi released Dani Alves who laid the ball back for Messi to score his 17th goal of the season and move level with Valencia’s David Villa at the top of the goalscoring charts.

Earlier Real followed up their 6-2 thrashing of Villarreal last time out with a 5-1 win at strugglers Tenerife to go top of the table for the first time in three months although Barca ensured it was a brief stay. Argentine Gonzalo Higuain took his season’s tally to 16 following a first half brace before Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and substitute Raul netted to make it 10 goals in two games.

Barcelona were under pressure to respond and welcomed back Alves after a month out with a calf

strain. Sergio Duda tested Victor Valdes with an early free-kick but Barca seized control and Messi went close on 13 minutes only to be denied by a late block by defender Weligton.

It was wave after wave of Barca attacks with Zlatan Ibrahimovic whistling a free-kick past the post from long range before Messi danced around Weligton only to chip over with his weaker right foot. An audacious flicked effort from Xavi with his heel was then tipped over by Gustavo Munua on 36 minutes. Sergi Busquets, Messi and Andres Iniesta all went close but Malaga held on for a 0-0 at the interval.

Pedro finally broke the deadlock on 68 minutes thundering a right-footed shot into the bottom

corner. Iniesta hit the crossbar before Valdo struck

a shock equaliser on

the counter attack with 10 minutes left. However, a briliant move started by Xavi released Alves who put the ball on a plate for Messi to roll in the winner.