Sunday, July 05, 2020
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Messi scores as Barcelona return with win

Barcelona scored 66 seconds into their return to action as Lionel Messi completed a comfortable 4-0 win at Mallorca in La Liga.

Arturo Vidal headed the opener and former Middlesbrough striker Martin Braithwaite added his first for the club before the break.

Luis Suarez came off the bench to make his first appearance since early January and Jordi Alba made it 3-0.

Lionel Messi scored his 20th league goal of the season late on.

Barca are now five points clear at the top of the table, and while Real will aim to trim the gap when they face Eibar on Sunday, this performance illustrated the size of their task to chase down the leaders.

The league's coronavirus suspension had given Suarez, 33, time to recover after the Uruguayan striker underwent surgery on his right knee in January.

The former Liverpool man looked sharp enough and went close on several occasions, almost scoring the game's fifth goal in added time.

But, after Vidal's powerful early header, it was Suarez's shock stand-in who caught the eye.

Martin Braithwaite
Martin Braithwaite is the third Danish player to score a La Liga goal for Barcelona, after Allan Simonsen and Michael Laudrup.

La Liga gave Barcelona permission to make a signing outside the transfer window in February after Ousmane Dembele was ruled out with an injury - and they rather surprisingly moved for Braithwaite, signing him from Leganes.

His first La Liga goal was excellent, thumping in from Messi's header, and he was only denied a second by a fine save from Manolo Reina.

Mallorca had plenty of possession without causing too much drama, something a pitch invader in a Messi Argentina shirt provided, somehow making his way on to the field despite the game being played without any fans in the stadium.

No harm was done, and Messi then freed Alba with a perfect pass and the left-back slotted home. The newly beardless Messi has been directly involved in 15 of Barcelona's 18 La Liga goals under Quique Setien (seven goals, eight assists).

And right at the end Messi reached the milestone of 20 La Liga goals for a 12th straight season, collecting a pass from Suarez, chopping inside and curling in via a slight deflection.


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