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BREAKING NEWS

Messi penalty helps under-par Barca beat Real Valladolid

Messi penalty helps under-par Barca beat Real Valladolid
Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona v Real Valladolid - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - February 16, 2019 Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores their first goal from the penalty spot REUTERS/Albert Gea -
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ALBERT GEA(Reuters)
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By Rik Sharma

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Lionel Messi scored one penalty and missed another as Barcelona beat Real Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday 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 as Ernesto Valverde rested Luis Suarez ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash at Olympique Lyonnais.

Barcelona struggled to create chances against a tight Valladolid defence, only breaking the deadlock when Messi converted a penalty won by Gerard Pique just before halftime for his 22nd league goal of the season.

Messi almost scored his second early in the second half but former Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip pulled off a breathtaking stop to deny La Liga's top scorer from close range.

The Argentine had another chance from the penalty spot in the final stages after substitute Philippe Coutinho was fouled but Masip made another impressive save to deny him.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

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