Football | Messi sets another record in Barca’s winning return

David Smith
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It took Barcelona just 65 seconds to rediscover their groove.

Jordi Alba provided the perfect cross for Arturo Vidal to head the La Liga leaders into an early lead in their first league match since March 7th, with the 99-day delay between matches due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic appearing to have little effect on the Spanish giants.

Vidal’s header sent Barca on their way to a comfortable 4-0 win over Reaal Mallorca at an empty Visit Mallorca Estadi on Saturday, extending Quique Setien’s side’s lead at the summit over Real Madrid to five points.

Returning from injury, Lionel Messi illuminated the match with several moments of magic for the visitors, providing two assists and adding Barcelona’s fourth goal in second-half stoppage time.

Messi’s late strike was the Argentinian’s 20th La Liga goal of the season – and his 25th in all competitions – making the Argentinian the only player in the league’s history to score 20 or more goals in 12 successive seasons.

Vidal, who has now scored seven of his nine shots on target in La Liga this season, met Alba’s second-minute cross with a powerful downward header into the bottom corner.

Denmark international Martin Braithwaite doubled Barcelona’s lead in the 37th minute, netting his first goal for the club.

The former Middlesbrough forward finished smartly into the top of the net on the half-volley from 10 yards after Messi’s brave cushioned header in the box.

Braithwaite, who controversially moved to Camp Nou from Leganes in February, almost doubled his tally in the second half, only to see his low shot tipped around the post by Mallorca captain Manolo Reina after a typically brilliant dribble and pass from Messi.

Mallorca fashioned several chances of their own either side of half time, before Setien introduced the returning Luis Suarez in place of Antoine Griezmann 12 minutes into the second half.

Defender Ronald Araujo saw his effort at the back post (from yet another Messi pass) hit the outside of the post as the away side pushed for a third goal.

Barca put the game beyond the hosts in the final 10 minutes, with Alba extending their lead to three goals in the 79th minute.

The Spanish left back raced through on goal after a sublime first-time chipped through ball from Messi, calmly finishing into the bottom corner past the onrushing Reina.

Messi completed the rout with his record-setting goal in the third minute of stoppage time, with substitute Suarez providing the assist on this occasion.

Suarez played Messi in down the left of the Mallorca box, with the Argentina international cutting inside on to his right foot before firing a deflected strike over Reina.

Messi has now scored 20 goals and recorded 14 assists in the league this season, and seems destined to stop Spain’s scoring charts once again.

Barcelona will now turn their attention to Tuesday’s clash with Leganes at Camp Nou.

Real Madrid, who face Eibar at home on Sunday in their game in hand, trail Setien’s men by five points.

Mallorca remain in 18th place following the defeat.