MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi picked up from where he left off before the international break, leading Barcelona to another Spanish league victory.
After struggling with Argentina’s national team yet again, Messi returned to Barcelona and thrived as usual, scoring twice in the team’s 2-0 win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Saturday.
Messi opened the scoring with a free kick in the 71st and sealed the victory from inside the area in the 89th, leaving Barcelona 13 points in front of Atletico Madrid, which visits fifth-placed Alaves later.
Messi had scored six goals in his last three matches with Barcelona before the international break, when he couldn’t do much to help Argentina in a 3-1 loss to Venezuela in a friendly last week. He later complained about the constant criticism against him in his homeland, saying that even his 6-year-old son asked why he was being attacked.
There were no complaints from the crowd at Camp Nou Stadium after another great performance by Messi, who leads the league’s scoring with 31 goals, 13 more than his closest competitor, teammate Luis Suarez.
It was the 12th straight win for Barcelona at home in the derby against Espanyol, which dropped to 14th. Barcelona hasn’t lost or drawn a match against Espanyol at Camp Nou since a league match nearly a decade ago. Its only loss to the rival since then was last year in an away game in the Copa del Rey.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni