Lionel Messi sealed Barcelona’s 2-0 win on Sunday to restore the defending champions’ five-point lead in the Spanish league over second-placed Atletico Madrid.
The Argentine’s goal came with Girona still threatening to equalize despite losing defender Bernardo Espinosa to a second yellow card shortly after halftime.
But a gaping hole appeared at the back when Luis Suarez played Jordi Alba clear. The left back quickly spied Messi arriving at the top of the box unmarked, and Messi did the rest by floating his shot over Yassine Bounou to crush the hosts’ comeback hopes in the 69th.
“They caused us more trouble with 10 men than with 11. It was an evenly contested match,” Alba said. “It was decided in the details, and by our talent up front. Leo never misses.”
It was Messi’s 10th goal in a seven-game scoring streak in the league. He leads the competition with 19 goals in 21 rounds.
The Spanish league had originally wanted to play the match in the United States, but the plan fell through. Instead of traveling 7,500 kilometers (4,600 miles) to Miami, Barcelona went 100 kilometers (60 miles) to Girona’s Montilivi Stadium.
Right back Nelson Semedo gave Barcelona the ninth-minute lead when a loose ball fell to him in the area, and he used his left leg to rifle it inside the post.
But Girona stifled Barcelona’s attack and threatened to equalize on several occasions through striker Cristhian Stuani.
Stuani’s best chance came late in the first half when Marc-Andre ter Stegen got low to block his shot. Teammate Pere Pons came close to finishing off the rebound, only for Gerard Pique to clear his shot from the line.
Also, Valladolid fought back for a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo.