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Messi Endures Rare Off Night vs. Malaga.

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Malaga ended Barcelona’s 100 percent start to the La Liga season as the teams played out a scoreless draw Wednesday night at Malaga’s Estadio La Rosaleda.

Barcelona had entered the match with four wins from their first four league matches but left having dropped their first points of the season. But Luis Enrique’s side remain atop the table with 13 points, ahead of Sevilla on goal difference, and have still yet to concede a goal in the league this season.

Up against Malaga’s determined defending, Barcelona were frustrated throughout the match despite dominating possession. The hosts, in fact, had the first good chance, Nordin Amrabat turning and shooting at Claudio Bravo in the eighth minute.

The visitors responded in the 15th minute as Lionel Messi curled a free-kick off target. Eleven minutes later, the Argentine tried to use his chest to redirect a Jordi Alba cross into the net, but his improvised shot bounced off target.

Two minutes before half-time, Barcelona created their best chance with a flowing passage of play. Messi started—and then nearly finished—the move, passing to Pedro, who picked out Alba on an overlap down the left. Alba drove his cross invitingly into the middle, but Messi was unable to reach the ball to turn it in.

As the second half dawned, the game returned to a familiar pattern, with Barcelona dominating possession but struggling to break down Malaga. The hosts, meanwhile, remained dangerous on the break, with Amrabat proving a handful for Barca’s defence.

The visitors created a clear chance in the 61st minute as Ivan Rakitic curled in a corner and Marc Bartra sent a bullet header just wide of the post.

Malaga responded with a spell of pressure, nearly taking the lead on a couple of occasions. In the 68th minute, Samu Castillejo pulled back a pass from deep on the left, picking out Roberto Rosales’ late run. The right-back hit his shot with plenty of power, but the piledriver flew wide of the far post.

Luis Alberto came even closer in the 71st minute with a free-kick. Taking aim from a tight angle on the left, Alberto tried to sneak his shot past Bravo at the near post, but the Barcelona goalkeeper pushed the shot onto the bar to keep the game scoreless.

Tempers flashed in the 82nd minute as Malaga’s Weligton Oliveira grabbed Messi by the face and pushed the Barcelona superstar to the pitch. Weligton received only a yellow card, while Barcelona’s Gerard Pique was also booked, apparently for confronting the Malaga man

It turned out to be the game’s final incident of note. After three minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle brought an end to the scoreless draw.

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