La Liga: Messi Brace Seals Barca Win

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Lionel Messi scored twice in the second half, including a chipped free-kick, as leaders Barcelona beat Espanyol to go 13 points clear at the top of La Liga.

Messi dinked his first goal from the edge of the box, with Espanyol defender Victor Sanchez failing to head clear as he ran back towards the goal-line. The Argentine finished off a counter-attack late on to take his tally to 31 goals for the season.

Messi has scored 22 goals in his last 15 La Liga games, while he has also surpassed 40 goals in a season for the 10th successive time.

He had been an injury doubt for the game after missing Argentina’s friendly with Morocco in mid-week, but showed no ill-effects when he had Barca’s first chance of the game, only to see his shot deflected over the crossbar.

Barca – who face Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-finals – dominated the first half, with Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez both going close to breaking the deadlock, and it wasn’t until the second half that goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was first troubled, by Oscar Melendo.

Messi’s opener saw Sanchez substituted by Espanyol soon after, before he sealed all three points by slotting home a Malcom cross.