Barcelona leapfrogged Atletico Madrid to go top of La Liga after Lionel Messi’s acrobatic volley secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory against tenacious Malaga on Saturday.
Munir El Haddadi, deployed up front in place of the injured Neymar, fired Barcelona ahead in the second minute at the Rosaleda Stadium on the south coast after smart work from Luis Suarez.
However, the visitors were unable to exert their customary control and Malaga, whose relentless pressing unsettled the Spanish and European champions, netted a deserved equaliser in the 32nd minute.
Javier Mascherano surrendered possession in a dangerous area and the ball fell to midfielder Juanpi whose shot was deflected in off the former Liverpool player as he slid across to block.
Messi was back in the side after sitting out Wednesday’s 2-1 King’s Cup triumph at Athletic Bilbao as a precaution but the Fifa Ballon d’Or winner was largely anonymous in the first half.
Barcelona were much improved in the second period and took a 2-1 lead in the 51st minute when Messi cracked Adriano’s cross past keeper Carlos Kameni. Barcelona are on 48 points, one ahead of Atletico before Diego Simeone’s side host seventh-placed Sevilla (32) on Sunday.