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Messi Keeps Barcelona Title Hopes Alive

Lionel Messi PricelessLionel Messi saved Barcelona from an embarrassing draw against fourth from bottom Leganes but he could not save Luis Enrique from very audible signs of unrest at the Nou Camp.

Messi buried an 89th minute penalty after Neymar had been brought down by Leganes defender Martin Mantovani and the win keeps them a point behind Real Madrid having played two more games.

But the stuttering manner of the victory again a team playing their first ever league game in the Nou Camp heaped more pressure on the under-fire coach still feeling the shockwaves of the midweek hammering at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu gave an interview before the game and said:

‘We have agreed to sit-down and talk [with Luis Enrique] in April. We are focused on the season now. He is the coach we want. He has won almost everything possible. There is no plan B.’

But the supporters do not seem so certain. At least three times during this win the Nou Camp’s singing section broke out in a Luis Enrique chant but were whistled down by most of the rest of the stadium.

The midweek defeat had also taken its toll on the gate with the 63,000 attendance the lowest of the season so far in the league.

Messi did not take long to break the deadlock sweeping in Luis Suarez’ cross on four minutes. But supporters hoping for a quick avalanche of first half goals were disappointed.

Neymar played the ball forward to Suarez and his clever flick so nearly teed-up Rafinha for what would have been the second. Then Messi and Suarez played a one-two inside the area but Leganes keeper Iago Herrerin pushed the ball away for a corner.

Then came the first renditions of Luis Enrique’s name chanted by the singing section behind the goal but bringing whistles from the rest of the stadium.

Leganes had their chances too. There was a great double save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen but the fact that Nabil El Zhar got as close as he had to goal was another show that Barcelona are currently below par. Little wonder that Cavani, Di Maria and Draxler had such a field day last week.

There was another round of ‘Luis Enrique’ and more whistles from the rest of the stadium before half-time. What must the coach be thinking? He said on Saturday he still doesn’t know if he will continue beyond the end of the season when his contract runs out.

Barcelona failed to extend their lead – 1-0 half time was not great for them but 1-1 would have been a lot worse – it took a great save from Ter Stegen, again from El Zhar, to prevent it happening.

The second half started badly when Suarez caught Gabriel Pires and was booked. The Leganes players had formed a huddle before the restart suggesting they sensed a chance to take something from the game.

And it wasn’t long before Ter Stegen was making his third crucial save of the game. This time from Guerrero as Leganes pushed for the equaliser. At the other end Barcelona were making little impact with passes going astray and few chances created.

Things went from bad to worse when the leveller came with Unai Lopez beating Ter Stegen with a tame shot that will go down as the sweetest hit of his career. The keeper could have done better but Sergio Roberto was to blame.

He had inexplicably tried to dribble infield when deep in the right back possession and had been robbed leading to the cross for the goal.

It look like a humiliating draw beckoned but up stepped Mr Reliable to slam in the penalty after Neymar had been felled. There was still time for El Zhar to shoot narrowly wide. It was poor from Barça, but it could have been so much worse.