La Liga

Messi, Barcelona take down Malaga

 Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal
Messi had one goal and two assists in Barcelona's win over Malaga on Sunday.
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Lionel Messi celebrated his fourth successive Ballon d'Or award by once again inspiring Barcelona to a 3-1 victory at Malaga.

Messi won his record-breaking FIFA honour on Monday, taking the honor ahead of Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, and continued his magnificent scoring run by breaking the deadlock tonight in the 27th minute.

The Argentinian then teed up Cesc Fabregas to put Barcelona two goals to the good after the interval before substitute Thiago made the game safe late on - despite Diego Buonanotte grabbing a consolation in the final minute.

It was ultimately a comfortable evening for the Primera Division leaders, who are 11 points clear of closest challengers Atletico Madrid.

Malaga upset Real Madrid last month at La Rosaleda and although they were started well tonight, they never recovered from Messi's opener.

The 25-year-old had the first opportunity of the match when Weligton failed to cut out Andres Iniesta's pass and a goal appeared inevitable when Messi went through on goal, but Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero magnificently prevented him from doing so.

Malaga were no shrinking violets and went close through Roque Santa Cruz, who had the ball taken off him at his feet by a scrambling Victor Valdes.

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The hosts also looked relatively comfortable at the back but they had all their good work undone when a sloppy backpass from Nacho Camacho was cut out by Messi, who twisted past Caballero and slotted into the net in the 27th minute.

It was harsh luck on Malaga, who nearly fell further behind a minute later but Fabregas' low strike from just outside the area fizzed past the post.

Santa Cruz continued to be a menace at the other end and Valdes was relieved when the Paraguayan striker could only head straight at him from Joaquin's free-kick.

But any hopes Manuel Pellegrini had of seeing his side get back into the match took a blow five minutes after half-time courtesy of some more Messi magic.

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The forward's inch-perfect chip caught Malaga's defenders flat footed and Fabregas ran through on goal before sending the ball across Caballero and into the right corner.

The visitors continued to toy with their over-matched opponents who were helpless to stop Barcelona's third in the 82nd minute.

Thiago, a 73rd-minute replacement for Fabregas, played a one-two with Messi on the edge of the box before slotting low past Caballero.

Malaga did at least get on the scoresheet, with Buonanotte curling delightfully into the top corner with a 20-yard free-kick.

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