Messi and Pique on target as 10-man Catalans keep up pressure on Real Madrid

Pep Guardiola's reign notched its 600th goal as the Blaugrana continue their resurgent title charge despite Thiago's sending off early in the second half

Barcelona's 50th competitive match of the season saw them secure a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Mallorca at the Iberostar Stadium on Saturday, despite playing much of the second half with 10 men.

Lionel Messi's curling free kick appeared to be diverted into the corner by Alexis Sanchez at the far post, but was awarded to the Argentine as Barca went in front midway through the first half.

Pep Guardiola's side missed the opportunity to double their advantage on a number of occasions after that and, following Thiago's sending off on the hour mark, were left sweating as the home side threateted. But they dug deep and Gerard Pique struck 10 minutes from time to make certain a vital three points in their pursuit of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

After a frantic start, Barcelona began to dominate the islanders and a defensive error allowed Messi a sight of goal. The Argentine did well to escape the attention of Nunes but Dudu Aoute got his face in the way of the 24-year-old's fierce drive.

Mallorca responded with the Catalans' best opportunity of the first half. A flowing move on the touchline saw Alvaro Gimenez combine well with Victor before the latter crossed for his strike partner, but Gimenez's flicked header dropped beyond the far post.

The home side fell behind in unfortunate circumstances after 25 minutes. Messi whipped in a devilish free kick that dropped inside the six-yard box before drifting onto the inside of the far post and rustling the back of the net without any subsequent touches, although Alexis Sanchez appeared to have guided it over the line.

In a dominant spell for the Blaugrana, Mallorca were fortunate to escape falling further behind when Thiago's bullish tackle had seen the ball break to Alexis. The Chilean's deflected shot hit the underside of the bar before Chico headed to safety ahead of the lurking Cesc Fabregas.

Joaquin Caparros' side started the second half on the front foot and the coach responded by introducing Tomer Hemed and Emilio Nsue to the action. And Mallorca's chances increased following Thiago's sending off after the referee harshly punished the midfielder for handball. The resulting free kick saw the islanders come close as Hemed rose highest to meet the delivery but Victor Valdes did well to make an important save.

Guardiola reacted to Thiago's red card by bringing on Martin Montoya and Seydou Keita in an attempt to stem the attacking threat. Despite this, Mallorca were able to assert themselves on the game, although they still struggled to create any clear chances.

And with 10 minutes remaining Barcelona secured all three points when Pique reacted quickest. Messi combined with Puyol before the former crashed a low drive against the upright, and there was the former Manchester United man to turn in the rebound.

Chances came late on for both sides but neither were able to convert them into goals as Barca prepared for their Champions League tie against AC Milan with a vital victory in their pursuit of a fourth straight Liga title.

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