BARCELONA: Lionel Messi scored a spectacular free kick to give Barcelona a 2-1 win over struggling Alaves on Sunday while Luis Suarez was also on target as the Catalans battled back from a goal down at halftime to stay 11 points clear at the top of La Liga.
Alaves were the only team to win at the Nou Camp in the league last season and looked set to overshadow Philippe Coutinho’s first start for Barca when Sweden striker John Guidetti gave them a shock lead in the 23rd minute, falling over as he lashed the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Suarez finally levelled for the Catalans in the 72nd minute with a sweet volley from Andres Iniesta’s cross, scoring for the eighth league game in a row, setting the stage for Messi’s dramatic and stylish winner in the 84th that gave Barca a seventh consecutive league win.
“It was a complicated match,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “They made it difficult by taking the lead. We had to keep pressing until the end to get the victory.”
The result extended Barca’s unbeaten streak in the league to 21 matches, their best mark since Pep Guardiola’s team did the same in the 2009-10 season.
“If you don’t concentrate you don’t win and sometimes looking at the rival team’s position in the league does you no good,” Suarez told reporters.
“In the second half we understood what was at stake and we managed to get the three points.”
Atletico Madrid overcame the absence of injured striker Diego Costa to beat Las Palmas 3-0 while Sevilla were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Getafe due to a controversial equaliser in injury time.
Barca top the standings with 57 points, 11 above nearest challengers Atletico and 19 ahead of champions Real Madrid, who roared back from their miserable start to 2018 with an impressive 4-1 win at third-placed Valencia on Saturday.
With Costa out injured, Atletico took a while to get going and had to wait until the 61st minute to open the scoring, Antoine Griezmann latching on to Juanfran’s fine ball down the right flank before dinking neatly over Las Palmas stopper Leandro Chichizola.
Frenchman Griezmann started the move that led to Atletico’s second, intercepting a loose pass and setting Angel Correa free to scamper down the pitch and feed Fernando Torres, who shifted the ball onto his right foot and lashed home just his second goal of the season, the 600th scored by Atletico in all competitions during Diego Simeone’s seven-year reign as coach.
An easy tap-in from Thomas Partey after great work from Yannick Carrasco two minutes from time completed the second-half rout of a desperate Las Palmas, who remain second from bottom and five points from safety.
Sevilla looked set to beat Getafe when Luis Muriel slid in to give them the lead in the 72nd minute but the visitors levelled in the 93rd when Angel Rodriguez lashed into an empty net after Juan Cala crashed into goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
Leganes beat Espanyol 3-2 at home with the help of two own goals from Mario Hermoso, who completed an unwanted hat-trick by scoring a late consolation strike for his side.