Barcelona win comfortably against 10-man Girona

GIRONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 27: Ter Stegen of Barcelona celebrates after the first goal of his team scored by Nelson Semedo (not in frame) during the La Liga match between Girona FC and FC Barcelona at Montilivi Stadium on January 27, 2019 in Girona, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
GIRONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 27: Ter Stegen of Barcelona celebrates after the first goal of his team scored by Nelson Semedo (not in frame) during the La Liga match between Girona FC and FC Barcelona at Montilivi Stadium on January 27, 2019 in Girona, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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Barcelona left the Montilivi with all 3 points

With all guns blazing, Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona battled Catalan rivals Girona and ultimately came out victorious. The side re-established the 5-point lead over Atlético at the top of the La Liga table, powered by goals from Nélson Semedo and Lionel Messi.

The Portuguese right-back scored his first ever goal for Barcelona in the 9th minute, after a scuffle in the box involving Arturo Vidal and Luis Suárez following an overhit cross by Ivan Rakitić. The ball fell to Semedo, and he rifled it into the bottom right corner with his left foot.

Girona came very close to equalising in the late stages of the first-half. Cristhian Stuani was put through on goal, and his shot was well-saved by Marc-André ter Stegen. The rebound fell to Pere Pons, but Gerard Piqué managed to make a goal-line clearance to maintain Barça’s lead.

Barça received a further advantage after Girona centre-back Bernardo Espinosa was shown the red card by the referee in a controversial decision. The Spaniard stepped on the heel of Luis Suárez, and was booked for a second time and subsequently sent off.

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Stuani had a host of chances but Ter Stegen stood his ground. Portu also had a golden opportunity, but it was cleared by Sergio Busquets. Barça finally extended their lead in the 69th minute, with Lionel Messi getting on the scoresheet.

Jordi Alba’s run was spotted by Luis Suárez with a brilliant through ball to put him in behind. The pacy Spanish left-back passed it to Messi, who took a touch to control it before chipping over the onrushing Bono to score his 18th goal of the season.

From there on out, Girona never really stood a chance of making a comeback, with a numerical disadvantage. It was surely a match marred by questionable decisions by the referee and the linesman, with VAR probably ending up being underused in pressure situations.

Sergio Busquets had a game to remember. He reminded everyone of his ability amid the uproars over the signing of his successor Frenkie de Jong. Marc-André ter Stegen also had a great match, while Jordi Alba was also brilliant. But the man-of-the-match has to be Leo Messi.

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Philippe Coutinho looked off, yet again. His passing accuracy was very poor, and he looked indecisive. The Brazilian forward was hesitant to shoot, and was low on confidence, as usual. He needs to step it up if Barça are to make a comeback in the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarters.