BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi ensured Barcelona reached the Spanish league’s winter break atop the standings, playing a part in both goals of a 2-0 win at home over Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Messi scored Barcelona’s second goal to take his league-leading tally to 15 in 17 rounds, including six goals in his last three matches, as Barcelona stayed three points ahead of Atletico Madrid.
“Our goal was to finish the year as leaders, and with the same advantage we had going into the round,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.
Messi helped to set up Ousmane Dembele’s opener when he received a pass from Jordi Alba and took a shot that was saved by goalkeeper Ruben Blanco. The rebound fell to Dembele to drive between the legs of a defender to take the 10th-minute lead.
Messi made it 2-0 in the 45th after Jordi Alba found him arriving to the center of Celta’s box completely unmarked to fire in a left-footed shot.
“On the first goal I looked for (Messi) like always, and on the second goal Luis (Suarez) and Dembele made runs to pull away defenders and left Leo alone,” Alba said about his role in both goals. “And Leo never misses.”
Third-placed Sevilla trails Barcelona by six points before visiting Leganes on Sunday.
After Sunday’s games the Spanish league stops play for two weeks.
Celta lost top scorer Iago Aspas — fourth in La Liga with 10 goals — to a leg injury early in the second half. The Spain striker walked gingerly off the pitch to the applause of the Camp Nou crowd, which included former Barcelona star Andres Iniesta.