Lionel Messi’s 25th league goal of the season in the 68th-minute added to Nelson Semedo’s first-half effort, as Barcelona eventually eased to a 2-0 win in the Catalan derby against ten-man Girona at Montilivi.
As the Portuguese gave the visitors the lead, Cristian Stuani was denied by a number of saves by stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, as Bernando Espinosa was dismissed six minutes after the interval.
The win sees the visitors extend their lead at the top of the table, after wins for Atletico Madrid, with rivals Real Madrid also traveling to Catalonia on Sunday evening.
Semedo goal sees Barcelona edge opening half
After a cautious opening ten minutes of the game, the visitors sprung into life to break the deadlock.
Following Girona’s inability to deal with a bobbling ball around their own penalty area, Arturo Vidal made a nuisance of himself from Luis Suarez’s lofted ball into the box.
As the hosts failed to clear their lines adequately, the ball fell to full-back Semedo, who drove low past Bono and it the net to open the scoring.
The goal saw La Blaugrana move briefly through the gears and almost add a second. Messi was typically involved and the Argentinian’s perfectly weighted pass found Philippe Coutinho galloping in on goal.
Bono however this time was able to deny Barcelona, making a smart save one-on-one with the Brazilian.
Messi continued to lurk in the shadows as Ernesto Valverde’s men looked to extend their advantage. This time Messi came close to adding a second but curled narrowly past the far post mid-way through the opening period.
Girona continued to bide and their to their credit and were not panicked in allowing their Catalan neighbours to dominate large portions of the game.
They were almost rewarded shortly before the break when clever interplay between Cristian Portu and Cristhian Stuani saw the latter find space on the right of the area.
The 12-goal Uruguyan struck his effort low, forcing ter Stegen into a save. The rebound then fell to Portu himself in the six-yard area, but as the ball hurtled toward the goal, Gerard Pique was on hand to clear off his own line.
It was in truth a tight opening half, but with just a goal separating the two it was all to play for at Montilivi.
Girona find belief despite Bernardo dismissal
Girona began the half on the front foot sensing a chance to take points off Barca for the second game this season.
Indeed it was Stuani again who again showed glimpses of his superior form this season. Again bearing down on goal Stuani forced ter Stegen into blocking the shot with his palms.
The Blanquivermell balloon was deflated soon after however after Bernando Espinosa was dismissed for a second yellow, following a late challenge on Suarez which saw the defender given his marching orders.
Conversely for Girona, the loss of a man gave the hosts new belief. It was once more Stuani who was denied by Barca’s German stopper with a full-stretch save after an error in midfeld.
Then moments later, Portu again found width in the channel and raced in field. The Spaniard sent in a teasing low cross and with Aleix Garcia set for a tap-in, Sergio Busquets a made last-ditch sliding intervention to put the ball behind.
Messi seals Catalan spoils
With Girona having to double their efforts to retrieve the ball, the men in red and white began to labour and Barca pounced
As the Barcelona shirts suddenly poured forward in a wave, Messi unlocked the home defence effortlessly to find Suarez and after the number nine returned the ball to his team-mate, Messi delightfully chipped Bono to double the advantage.
The latter almost added a second for yet another La Liga brace – the Argentinian’s effort from close range saved by Bono at his near post – as the visitors sought to put the icing on their afternoon’s work.
Bernardo’s sending off had eventually taken the wind from the Girona sails for the hosts, Barca were prevented from adding a third goal in Catalonia after two further fine saves from the Girona keeper.
Nevetherless, Barcelona were happy to conserve energy ahead their Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg against Sevilla later this week and cruised to three points.