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Barcelona win to keep pressure on Real Madrid

(Xinhua)

11:31, March 25, 2012

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (R) controls the ball during their Spanish first division soccer match against at the Iberostar stadium in Mallorca March 24, 2012. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

MADRID, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Goals from Leo Messi and Gerard Pique gave FC Barcelona a hard-fought win away to Mallorca this Saturday night.

Messi saw a first half freekick end up in the back of the net without hitting anyone on the way to goal, while Pique fired home from close range with 10 minutes remaining to seal the win.

Pique's goal was especially important as Barca had been playing with 10 men since the 56th minute following a harsh red card shown to midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who was sent off for a handball, when the ball had hit his shoulder.

Barcelona were without left backs Adriano and Eric Abidal, while Dani Alves was suspended and coach Pep Guardiola compensated by playing a three man defense and playing an attacking starting 11.

As usual the Barca attack was led by Messi, who last weekend became the highest scorer in the club's history with a hat-trick against Granada and he was joined by Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez, while Cesc Fabriagas and Thiago were also in the side, although Xavi Hernandez was rested.

Mallorca looked to take advantage of the three-man Barca defense and Chori Castro could have done better then put through before Barca took control of the game.

Messi forced a good save from Dudu Aouate on 12 minutes and Barca took the lead after 24 minutes. Messi curled in a free kick which evaded everyone before ending in the back of the net. At first it appeared Alexis got the vital touch, but replays showed the ball evaded everyone en-route into the net.

Alexis hit the crossbar with a powerful shot after 33 minutes and then saw a shot well blocked by Aouate in the closing minute of the half as Mallorca were pushed further and further back.

Mallorca started the second half strongly and had Barca under pressure, especially after Thiago's sending off, but the arrival of Martin Montoya on the pitch for Barca steadied the Barca defense and Pique's goal sealed the three points.

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