Lionel Messi scored for the seventh time in four La Liga games on Sunday as champions FC Barcelona scraped their way to a hard-fought 2-1 win at Getafe.
The win propelled them five points clear at the top of the table.
Messi gave the Catalans the lead in the 20th minute, tucking the ball into the net from a tight angle after his initial shot was saved by the legs of Getafe goalkeeper David Soria.
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez then doubled Barca’s advantage in the 39th minute with a spectacular volley from outside the area.
But Getafe hit back two minutes before the interval with a close-range finish from striker Jaime Mata after a splendid team move.
Barca, who have won seven out of the last 10 La Liga titles, now lead the standings on 40 points after 18 games.
They stretched the gap to five points over their nearest pursuers Atletico Madrid, who drew 1-1 with third-placed Sevilla.
The Catalans are 10 points ahead of European champions Real Madrid, whose struggles continued with a 2-0 home defeat by Real Sociedad.
Getafe’s Mata, who had an earlier first-half strike ruled out at 0-0 for an apparent foul by team mate Angel Rodriguez, missed a big chance in the second half.
He blasted the ball over the bar with Barca’s goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen stranded.
Ter Stegen then made a flying save to keep out a powerful header from Leandro Cabrera.
Soria was kept busy down the other end and did well to prevent both Messi and French defender Clement Lenglet from stretching Barca’s lead.(Reuters/NAN)