|Barcelona players celebrating a goal|
Barcelona, the unbeaten leaders, ended the first half of the La Liga season with a record 55 out of a possible 57 points when Lionel Messi scored one goal and had a hand in two more in a 3-1 win at Málaga.
An 18th victory in 19 games for Tito Vilanova’s side restored their 11-point lead over second-placed Atlético Madrid, who secured a 10th win in 10 home matches this season with a 2-0 success against Real Zaragoza.
Barça’s win also extended their lead over Real Madrid to 18 points after the champions, mired in third, were held to a 0-0 draw at the bottom side, Osasuna, on Saturday.
Málaga have the meanest defence in the league but a howler by Ignacio Camacho handed Barça their opener in the 27th minute. Messi intercepted the midfielder’s wayward back pass and after leaving the goalkeeper, Willy Caballero, sprawling on the floor stroked the ball into an unguarded net.
It was the World Player of the Year’s 28th league goal of the campaign and the ninth straight game in which he has scored, a personal record and one short of the La Liga mark last achieved in the 1996-97 season by the former Barça striker Ronaldo.