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Late Messi Penalty Saves Barca

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By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor

A late penalty from Lionel Messi salvaged a 2-1 victory over lowly Leganes for a below-par Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

After Luis Suarez set up Messi for his 16th goal in his last 17 games just four minutes in, it looked ominous for Leganes.

However, the visitors put in a spirited showing and got a deserved equaliser in the 71st minute through substitute Unai Lopez.

With the whistles bellowing from the stands, Neymar won a spot-kick in stoppage time, which was emphatically converted by Messi.

The result ensured Barca closed the gap to Real Madrid at the top of La Liga to one point, but another lacklustre showing will have done little to alleviate the pressure on Luis Enrique’s shoulders.

Barcelona made three changes to the side that were so hapless in defeat against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, but it was two rather familiar faces who combined to open the scoring.

Suarez pulled wide, latched onto a through ball down the left, and put it on a plate for Messi to tap home at the far post.

 However, to their credit, the Pepineros found a way back into the match, and should really have been level as former Liverpool man Nabil El Zhar broke clear, but he was twice denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The save from the rebound was especially impressive, down to his left.

Barca were at their free-flowing best as Suarez and Messi combined superbly to create a chance for the Argentine, but Leganes goalkeeper Iago Herrerin stuck out a right hand to keep the toe-poke out.

Skipper Martin Mantovani then headed over from a corner as Leganes continued to more than match their illustrious opponents.

Right on the half-time whistle, Ter Stegen did superbly to react to a late deflection on an El Zhar strike to palm the ball to safety.

After the break it was more of the same, as Miguel Guerrero was this time denied by a smart stop from Ter Stegen. The defending was especially poor, as a long ball over the top cut them open too easily.

Unai Lopez scores Leganes’ equaliser

Neymar did bring a smart save out of Herrerin just before the hour mark, but their usual fluidity continued to desert them.

Jeremy Mathieu got away with seemingly obvious pull back on Guerrero, which would have resulted in the French defender being sent off, then straight down the other end Rafinha saw an effort saved, before prodding the rebound towards goal, but it was cleared from under the crossbar.

That equaliser did come in the 71st minute. Sergi Roberto gave the ball away and Darwin Machis laid the ball back for fellow substitute Lopez to fire through the legs of Ter Stegen.

Guerrero then glanced a header at goal, which Ter Stegen just about gathered, as Leganes went in search of a famous win.

Herrerin bravely blocked a late Neymar effort as the home side pressed for a winner, which came via the penalty spot in the 90th minute.

Neymar was bundled over by Mantovani in the box, which gave Messi the chance to snatch victory, and the skipper duly obliged, firing into the top corner.

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