Barcelona remain peerless and unbeatable at the top of La Liga. Tonight they claimed their latest victim, Málaga, who with two errors put the match in the Catalan club's favour. At the halfway point in the season, Barça are 11 points clear of Atlético Madrid and 18 from Real Madrid. It's been nine years since the team from the south coast has managed to beat Barcelona; their last win came in 2003 on a memorable evening for the forward Salva Ballesta, who scored three times. Since then, it's been a few draws and a number of defeats for the Andalucians.
Málaga made two changes in their starting eleven for La Rosaleda today, Sergio Sánchez coming in at right back for the suspended Gámez, and the Frenchman Jéremy Toulalan replacing Portillo in midfield. Barcelona went with Mascherano at centre back and Dani Alves on the right side of defence. Málaga started the game piling on the pressure, but with the passing of the minutes Barcelona found their flow and it was Leo Messi who had the first clear-cut chance after making the most of Weligton's mistake; nevertheless, at the last the home team's keeper Willy Caballero was able to take the ball away from him with his left hand.
Málaga weren't intimidated and kept attacking, Camacho sending out a message of warning with a shot while Santa Cruz almost robbed the ball when Mascherano passed it to Valdés. The game was one of almost non-stop assaults on the areas, and it seemed by times that the defences were practically non-existent. Barcelona dominated though, seeing the most of the ball. Despite the free-flowing football the goal scoring chances were few. Iniesta had a shot cleared by Caballero, and in the next move Camacho misjudged his pass backwards, allowing Messi to slip in, round the keeper and score the opener on 26 minutes. It was harsh on the home team, who were keeping pace with the leaders, but you pay for your mistakes at this level. Shaken, the defence gave away another opportunity, this time to Cesc, whose shot missed the target by centimetres.
Pellegrini's men pulled themselves together and went back at the task with a number of incursions on the 'azulgrana' box, although they were without that final ball or clinical finish. The resurgence lasted only four minutes in the second half, before Messi passed to Cesc Fábregas, who got ahead of Sergio Sánchez and struck the ball across the oncoming Caballero to get the second of the night. From then on, the match went downhill as Barcelona calmed down and Málaga were found anxious and lacking rhythm.
The introduction of the Argentine forward Diego Buonanotte, in place of Eliseu, gave them a bit more bite. But Barcelona put the game out of sight with another goal, this time courtesy of Thiago and a low shot from outside the box that Caballero couldn't reach. An inspired, curling free-kick from Buonanotte provided the home team with a consolation goal, but it was too little, too late for a Málaga who paid for their mistakes.