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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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Messi nets 30th goal of the season as Barcelona maintain seven point lead in La Liga

Ernesto Valverde’s men maintained their lead over Atletico Madrid on Saturday against Real Valladolid.

Messi scored his 30th goal of the season in all competitions on Saturday night.
Messi scored his 30th goal of the season in all competitions on Saturday night.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

LIONEL MESSI NETTED his 30th goal of the season before missing his second penalty of the game as leaders Barcelona returned to winning ways in La Liga with a 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid.

Gerard Pique won the 43rd-minute spot kick that proved the difference between the sides but, following back-to-back draws against Valencia and Athletic Bilbao in the top flight, Ernesto Valverde’s men were again short of their fluent best.

Those previous results and Atletico Madrid’s win over third-bottom Rayo Vallecano earlier on Saturday meant Barca went into the game with their now-restored lead at the top trimmed to four points.

Former Blaugrana goalkeeper Jordi Masip impressed in goal for Valladolid, not least after substitute Philippe Coutinho won a second penalty and he plunged to his left to deny Messi.

Referee Juan Martinez Munuera rejected earlier penalty claims from Kevin-Prince Boateng on his first La Liga start but was persuaded by Pique’s slightly theatrical fall under Michel’s clumsy challenge.

Masip guessed correctly to his left but was beaten for power and accuracy by Messi, before Pique made himself useful in his own box – getting a vital touch with Enes Unal poised to convert Nacho’s cross.

LaLiga Santander FC Barcelona v Valladolid CF.Feb 16th Kevin Prince Boateng runs through midfield at the Nou Camp on Saturday night. Source: Marc Dominguez

Sergi Guardiola dragged a shot wide as Valladolid continued to acquit themselves well in the second half, although they were indebted to a stunning reaction save from Masip as he denied Messi on the half-volley.

The visiting keeper scrambled from his line effectively to snuff out danger after Boateng sprung a flimsy offside trap in the 55th minute.

Luis Suarez replaced the ex-AC Milan attacker with an hour played and he was soon thwarted by Masip in a one-on-one.

Messi’s frustrations approached boiling point as he was booked for protests following a robust challenge from Anuar Mohamed.

He would prove the match-winner, even if Masip did his mood no favours five minutes from time, calmly pouching his headed follow-up from the penalty save.

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