Suarez, Coutinho score as Messi-less Barcelona open 11-point lead with win
Malaga 0 - 2 Barcelona

Suarez, Coutinho score as Messi-less Barcelona open 11-point lead with win

11/03/2018

Barcelona tightened their grip at the top of La Liga with a 2-0 win at bottom club Malaga, who played for an hour with 10 men.

Even without star man Lionel Messi, who was with his wife following the birth of their third son, Barcelona had too much for the hosts.

Luis Suarez headed in a fine opener after 15 minutes before Philippe Coutinho added a second with a neat flick and Malaga midfielder Samuel Garcia saw red following a rash tackle from behind on Jordi Alba.

The comfortable victory leaves Barca 11 points clear of Atletico Madrid, who host Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde, though, resisted temptation to rest several key players ahead of next week's Champions League match against Chelsea, with Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both starting.

Malaga had collected just two points from the last 12 games and look set to lose their La Liga status barring a remarkable turnaround over the closing weeks of the campaign, now some 11 points from safety.

It was not long before Malaga goalkeeper Roberto was called into action, producing a fine low save after Dembele had picked out Suarez.

The Uruguay international, though, soon had the ball in the net when he got between a static home defence to nod a perfectly-weighted floated pass from Alba wide on the left into the far corner.

Before Malaga could look to mount a recovery, they were 2-0 down after 28 minutes.

Dembele was again the architect, slipping a low cross through the six-yard box from the right, which Coutinho dispatched with a clever deft back-heel.

Malaga were down to 10 men on the half-hour when midfielder Garcia went through the back of Alba and was swiftly shown a red card.

The home side, though, wasted a great chance to pull one back just five minutes later.

Manuel Iturra got to the by-line down the right and floated a cross back to the far post, where Youssef En-Nesyri arrived to head the ball down and off target.

Diego Rolan then fired over as Malaga failed to make the most of Barcelona's generosity ahead of the interval.

Dembele sent a volley wide as Barcelona started the second half on the front foot.

Barca defender Samuel Umtiti headed straight at the goalkeeper from close range before Paulinho sent a free header from a corner off target.

Roberto produced another smart stop from Dembele's fierce drive before the tempo dropped during the closing stages.

With six minutes left, Suarez was cautioned for barging into the back of Ignasi Miquel, the former Arsenal defender, which will mean he must serve a suspension for the next La Liga match against Athletic Bilbao.

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