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La Liga

Late Lionel Messi Free-Kick Saves Barcelona at Nou Camp

Messi Barcelona
BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 28: Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou on January 28, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi scored a late free-kick as Barcelona staged a second-half comeback to defeat Alaves 2-1 in Philippe Coutinho’s full debut at the Nou Camp.

Messi’s goal completed a fine turnaround for the league leaders after John Guidetti had given the visitors a shock first-half lead from a fine counter-attacking move.

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Coutinho was substituted midway through the second half, and minutes later Luis Suarez equalised from Andres Iniesta’s cross to break Alaves’ resolve.

The win restores Barça’s 11-point lead at the top of La Liga, while Alaves remain a place outside the bottom three.

Barça controlled the ball from the first minute but found Alaves’ 4-4-2 formation a stubborn obstacle, and were made to wait until the 15th minute for a first sight of goal; Messi just failing to reach Suarez’s low driven cross.

The visitors stunned the Nou Camp by taking the lead eight minutes later with Messi conceding possession deep in the Alaves half, before Alvaro Medran’s sweeping long ball released Guidetti who lashed the ball inside Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s near post.

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It was nearly 2-0 moments later when Ruben Sobrino lined up an angled shot, but Ter Stegen tipped his effort over the bar.

Messi came within inches of drawing his side level when his whipped free-kick was brilliantly turned against the post by Pacheco in the Alaves goal.

But it was the visitors who nearly doubled their lead again at the start of the second half, with Gomez Ibai nipping in behind from Guidetti’s ball and feeding Ruben Duarte whose shot was deflected wide.

Coutinho was withdrawn for Alcacer with 25 minutes go having failed to spark Barça into life, and minutes later Suarez levelled, getting on the end of Iniesta’s hanging cross to volley past Pacheco.

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Suarez nearly grabbed his second when he tried to slot past Pacheco, who stood up well to deflect the ball wide, but Messi eventually gave the hosts the lead when his free-kick was pushed into the roof of the net by the diving goalkeeper.

Alaves thought they should have had a penalty late on when Samuel Umtiti blocked Munir’s shot with his hand, but referee Ignacio Iglesias ignored the appeals of the visitors as Barça went on to claim all three points.

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