Barcelona kept the pressure on Primera Division leaders Real Madrid as a goal in either half earned them a seventh straight league win – 2-0 against Mallorca at the Iberostar Stadium.
Alexis Sanchez claimed he got the last touch to an inswinging Lionel Messi free-kick for the first, although there was still debate at the final whistle as to whether it should actually go down as the Argentinian’s 55th of the season instead. Defender Gerard Pique settled it by firing into an open goal after a Messi shot rebounded off the post.
Barca played the last 33 minutes with 10 men after Thiago Alcantara was shown two yellow cards, while for Mallorca the result brought an end to their four-match unbeaten run.
Messi was presented with an early chance to score league goal number 35 of the campaign, but Israeli goalkeeper Dudu Aouate came out to block the Argentinian superstar’s effort.
The breakthrough came in the 25th minute when Sanchez was fouled by Ivan Ramis on the right flank, and after Messi’s teasing left-footed free-kick evaded the head of Sergio Busquets, the Chilean winger claimed he had got the faintest headed touch to the ball at the far post as Aouate flapped at it.
Sanchez almost added a second in the 33rd minute when he was released into the box and fired in a shot which took a slight deflection off Jose Carlos Nunes, hit the underside of the bar and bounced out.
Barca’s evening was made slightly more tricky as talented midfielder Thiago was shown a second yellow card for an apparent handball, but they eased any nerves they may have had with a second goal 11 minutes from time.
Carles Puyol found himself in an uncustomary advanced position and rolled the ball across the area to Messi, whose low left-foot shot had the beating of Aouate but bounced back off the goalkeeper’s left-hand post, and Pique was on hand to bury the rebound.
Aouate came out to deny Cristian Tello from a tight angle, and Messi then produced a sublime ball to find Martin Montoya in space, but rather than volley goalwards he hacked the ball sideways. Substitute Tomer Hemed headed over a clear chance for the hosts in injury time.