Barcelona restored their five-point lead at the top of LaLiga as Nelson Semedo’s first goal for the club set up for a 2-0 victory in the Catalan derby. The hosts’ spoiling tactics, niggling fouls, holding and blocking their opponents, restricted the leaders to just the Portugal defender’s first-half strike but once Bernardo Espinosa was dismissed for a second bookable offence in the 51st minute the result was not in doubt.
Lionel Messi executed a trademark chip for his 19th league goal of the season soon after and there was no way back for Girona. Had it not been for goalkeeper Bono the scoreline would have had a much more convincing appearance.
This was the game initially flagged as the one to be hosted by Miami in the United States as part of an experiment to take LaLiga to an overseas audience.
However, both sides may have preferred that option with heavy rain falling midway through the first half at the Estadi Montilivi – although by that time the visitors were already ahead.
It was virtually their first chance of the game, coming in the ninth minute, when Girona twice failed to clear as Arturo Vidal put them under pressure.
The ball dropped to Semedo and he fired home a left-footed shot, with his first LaLiga goal ensuring Barca extended their scoring streak in away matches to 32 fixtures.
Cristhian Stuani was Girona’s biggest threat but his claim for a penalty for a tug on his shirt from Jordi Alba looked pretty desperate, as was Pedro Alcala’s far post header which flew high and wide.
Philippe Coutinho’s struggles continued as he shot straight at Bono having been put through by a pass from Messi, who curled a shot wide after Luis Suarez had cleverly cut back the ball after being forced wide as he bore down on goal.
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Virtually Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s only action of the first half saw him stick out his right boot to deny Stuani from 10 yards, with Alex Granell’s shot cleared off the line by Gerard Pique.
Within three minutes of the second half starting Ter Stegen blocked another Stuani shot after the Uruguay striker had easily skipped past Clement Lenglet.
It was their last real chance of getting back into the game as in the 51st minute Espinosa caught Suarez from behind and was somewhat harshly shown a red card for a second bookable offence.
Midway through the second half Suarez released Alba and his first-time cross was controlled by Messi with the outside of his left foot and, with Bono advancing beyond the penalty spot, chipped in a shot with his second touch.
Bono later palmed away shots from Messi’s close-range half-volley and Rakitic’s deflected drive from distance but an eighth successive league win – the longest sequence under coach Ernesto Valverde – was already secure.
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