Messi on target again as Barca overcome Girona

Nelson Semedo and Lionel Messi struck for Barcelona as they earned a comfortable 2-0 win at Girona on Sunday to maintain their five-point lead at the top of La Liga. Messi returned to the starting line-up after being rested last weekend against Leganes and in midweek for the Copa del Rey win over Sevilla, and was instrumental as the champions recorded an eight consecutive league victory.

Lionel Messi scored for a sixth consecutive La Liga game as champions Barcelona saw off a gutsy Girona side 2-0 in a Catalan derby on Sunday to go five points clear at the top of the standings.

Portuguese fullback Nelson Semedo struck with his weaker left foot to send Barca into the lead in the ninth minute of the game, which was played on a rain-swept afternoon at Girona's Montilivi stadium after La Liga's ambitious plan to stage the game in Miami fell through.

Girona missed a double chance to equalise shortly before the break, with Barca defender Gerard Pique clearing a shot off the line, and the home side's striker Cristhian Stuani was thwarted by the feet of German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen early in the second period.

Girona had defender Bernardo Espinosa sent off in the 51st minute for a second booking and their hopes of getting back in the game were dealt a fatal blow by La Liga's top scorer Messi, who lofted the ball over keeper Bono in the 68th to net his 18th league goal of the season.

The strike means Messi has now scored at every La Liga ground he has played at, with the Argentine still to visit Huesca later in the campaign.

Barca top the table on 49 points after 21 games, holding a five-point lead over nearest challengers Atletico Madrid.

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