Lionel Messi scored one penalty kick and missed another as FC Barcelona beat Real Valladolid 1-0 yesterday to open up a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga.
The Catalans played far below their vibrant best but were not troubled by the visitors at the Nou Camp as they ended a run of three consecutive draws in all competitions.
Ousmane Dembele was handed his first start after injury, and loan signing Kevin-Prince Boateng featured for only the second time since joining in January.
This was as coach Ernesto Valverde started with Luis Suarez on the bench ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League clash at Olympique Lyonnais.
FC Barcelona struggled to create chances against a tight Valladolid defence, only breaking the deadlock when Messi converted a penalty kick.
It was won by Gerard Pique just before halftime, for Messi’s 22nd league goal of the season.
Messi almost scored his second early in the second half but former FC Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip pulled off a breathtaking stop to deny La Liga’s top scorer from close range.