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Messi goal lifts Barcelona

Monday, March 31, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain - Lionel Messi converted a late penalty to give Barcelona a contentious 1-0 win at Espanyol, provisionally lifting the defending champions to the top of the Spanish league.

Espanyol's physical style had kept Messi and the crosstown visitors in check until defender Javi Lopez handled in the area, and the Argentina forward scored the spot kick for his 23rd league goal this season and eighth in his last four games.

Barcelona was fortunate, however, that the referee did not see the ball hit Lopez after Dani Alves' cross first ricocheted off Neymar's arm, as television replays appeared to show.

Espanyol played the last seven minutes and injury time with 10 men after goalkeeper Kiko Casilla used his hands outside the box.

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