For 70 minutes on Saturday, it looked like Espanyol might just escape the Nou Camp with a point against city rival Barcelona in the Derbi barceloní.
Then Lionel Messi did what the planet’s greatest player does, scoring twice before the final whistle to earn a 2-0 win and extend Barca’s lead atop La Liga to an all-but-insurmountable 13 points over Atletico Madrid.
The hosts dominated the match from the outset, badly out-possessing and out-chancing overmatched Espanyol, which remains 14th place in Spain’s top flight. But the visitors defended stoutly, and Barca couldn’t find the breakthrough from open play.
Fortunately for them, Messi broke the deadlock by coolly chipping a “Panenka” free kick over the wall and keeper Diego Lopez from just outside the 18-yard box:
The strike gave Ernesto Valverde’s side some much-needed breathing room. And Messi, who earlier this week was credited with scoring the three greatest goals in Barcelona’s illustrious history, would kill the game off with his second tally of the match in the final minute of regular time.
Home keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen started the sequence with a quick outlet pass. Twelve seconds later, the ball was in Lopez’s net, with Messi arriving in the area to finish Malcom’s centering feed first-time:
The goals were Messi’s 28th and 29th in 26 La Liga games this season. The 31-year-old Argentine has now converted 11 more times than Barcelona teammate Luiz Suarez, who is second on the circuit’s scoring chart.
Barca will host Atleti next weekend in the teams’ final meeting of the 2018-19 season. A win by the Catalans would all but end the title race then and there. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in Madrid last November.
Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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