Lionel Messi scored a sublime goal to make up for the missed trip to Miami as Barcelona beat Girona 2-0 on Sunday to go five points clear again at the top of La Liga.
This was the fixture intended to be played in the United States but any advantage Girona maintained by keeping it at their own Montilivi ground was cancelled out by Messi, and another ruthless Barca display.
Messi’s brilliant finish in the second half, his ninth goal in as many games, came after Nelson Semedo had given the visitors an early lead, before Bernardo Espinosa’s red card consigned Girona to 39 minutes with 10 men.
The home fans were left incensed by that decision, as well as Messi’s reaction they believed had caused it, but the Argentinian’s goal offered the perfect riposte.
Barcelona restore their hefty advantage over Atletico Madrid, who had cut the gap to two by beating Getafe on Saturday. Real Madrid will have to overcome Espanyol later on Sunday just to reduce their own deficit to 10.
Outside the stadium before kick-off, propped up on a railing, was a sign with a scrawled message that read: “Miami, here we come”.
La Liga had hoped to drag this game there to promote Spanish football and the clubs had supported the idea, with various perks dangled in front of fans, including free flights and tickets, not to mention the chance to be part of something “historic”.
Girona’s home, however, is here and when opposition proved too great, neither team wanted to appear disappointed. “I always felt it was a distant option,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said on Saturday.