The Argentine emerged from the bench to clinch the game late on for the hosts, who warmed up for their crucial Champions League clash against AC Milan with a much-needed victoryBarcelona got back to winning ways in La Liga with a 2-0 victory over Deportivo at Camp Nou on Saturday.
The Catalans recovered from their 2-1 win reverse at Real Madrid last weekend, as Alexis Sanchez struck the opening goal of the game during a dominant first half for the hosts, who should have been out of sight by halftime.
But despite the Blaugrana's tempo dropping considerably during the second half, Deportivo was not able to add any sort of offensive punch, and Lionel Messi emerged from the bench to clinch the game with a well-worked goal with two minutes remaining.
Messi was joined on the bench by Andres Iniesta, as interim coach Jordi Roura looked to rotate his squad ahead of its crucial Champions League clash with AC Milan midweek.
All the early momentum belonged to the Blaugrana. Daniel Alves was the first to test Daniel Aranzubia in the visitors’ goal with a low shot that was turned away at the near post.
The Brazilian then put Cesc Fabregas in the clear with a clever ball over the top, but after bringing the ball down beautifully, the midfielder made a hash of his finish and blasted over the bar.
David Villa was denied by an excellent challenge from Silvio, before Aranzubia was called into action again to divert a deflected Cristian Tello effort onto the post, as Barca kept piling on the pressure.
With 24 minutes on the clock, Villa spurned a golden opportunity when he clipped right at Aranzubia from point blank range, with Tello also denied by the Deportivo keeper from the rebound.
It seemed like Barca would end the first half frustrated but, six minutes before the interval, it found the breakthrough when Alves’ exquisite cross was nodded in by Sanchez despite the best efforts of Aranzubia.
Barca’s momentum tailed off considerably in the second half, as Deportivo’s revitalized ranks at the back held firm, rendering its tiki-taka game impotent.
Roura responded by introducing Messi for Villa just past the hour mark, with Iniesta soon to follow as Thiago made way.
But chances remained at a premium as the game approached its closing stages. Carles Puyol received the first booking of the game with 20 minutes remaining for coming in late on Javier Camunas.
With just over a quarter of an hour to go, Aranzubia pulled off another fine save to deny substitute Iniesta from point blank range, with Messi’s rebound correctly chalked off for offside.
But with two minutes to go, a scintillating combination between Sanchez and Messi saw the latter dink the ball stylishly over Aranzubia to finally wrap up the points for the hosts after what was a poor second half.