Mallorca 0-4 Barcelona
The La Liga omens were not good for Mallorca.
They had lost their last six top-flight matches with Barcelona and had not been victorious against the Catalan giants in the league since May 2009.
Furthermore, they were in the drop zone and meeting the leaders, two points clear at the summit, in charge of their own title destiny and now bidding for a third successive title.
An away banker with the SBOBET La Liga 2020 betting odds as Spanish football returned? Yes, every inch as much.
Highlights of the game
We knew before kick-off that Barcelona were back in business off the pitch with the reopening of their facilities following safety and hygiene protocols.
The question was, would they be back in the mood now that the league’s coronavirus suspension had given Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez time to recover from undergoing surgery on his right knee?
Would top scorer and mercurial captain Lionel Messi, who had a thigh problem before returning to training this week, be fully fit as Barca prepared for their first game in 97 days?
It didn’t take long to find out. Just 66 seconds in fact.
That was when Arturo Vidal opened the scoring after being picked out by Jordi Alba from the left.
The strike was one of the quickest this season, although not quite as quick as Jaime Mata’s goal for Getafe at Valencia (45 seconds) earlier in the campaign.
One became two before the break as former Middlesbrough striker Martin Braithwaite netted his first for Barca in only his fourth game for the club.
The Danish striker made the most of a headed assist from Messi to fire past Manolo Reina.
Earlier in the season, while with Leganes, Braithwaite also scored against Mallorca.
The hosts — third-bottom after winning 2-1 at fellow strugglers Eibar in their last game before the enforced break — enjoyed plenty of possession and Marc-Andre ter Stegen twice had to be alert to deny on-loan Real Madrid man Takefusa Kubo.
He aside, Mallorca rarely threatened the visitors who clearly had some support inside the stadium.
Despite only players, staff and journalists officially being allowed into the ground due to coronavirus, one youngster still managed to make it inside Son Moix and onto the pitch.
Wearing an Argentina shirt, he managed to make it onto the pitch in the 54th minute and tried to reach Messi to take a photo before security officials managed to catch up with him.
Whether he was allowed to witness the final two goals is hard to know.
First Messi freed Alba with a perfect pass and the left-back slotted home 11 minutes from time. Messi then collected a pass from Suarez and curled home via a slight deflection in stoppage time.
It was a return from the substitutes bench for Suarez, whose January operation looked set to rule him out for the remainder of the campaign before it was halted.
The victory also sent at Barca five points clear – for 24 hours at least – over Real, who had actually replaced them at the top of the table when they beat the defending champions 2-0 at the Bernabeu on March 1.
This was only a fourth clean sheet in 16 away league games for Quique Setien’s side. This is the form they will need to continue in the rushed end to the 2019/20 campaign.
With no Champions League to worry about until the La Liga season ends, there are no excuses.
As for Mallorca, their position is far from terminal as they are only a point off 17th-placed Celta Vigo, while they have won seven league games this season, which is relatively high considering their spot in the table.
Yet they will need to perform better than this if they are to ensure their top-flight stay isn’t consigned to a solitary season.
They have already produced La Liga 2020 highlights this term, including a 1-0 victory over Real and a 4-1 hammering of Valencia. Now they need more.
Messi has now reached 20 La Liga goals for a 12th successive season.
With seven goals and eight assists, he has been directly involved in 15 of Barcelona’s 18 La Liga goals since Setien was appointed, including 13 of the club’s last 16 goals.
Braithwaite has become the third Danish player to score for Barca after Michael Laudrup (39 goals) and Allan Simonsen (31).
The games will come thick and fast for both sides now.
Mallorca are back in action on Tuesday evening (June 16) when they travel to Villarreal, before welcoming Leganes on Friday evening.
Barcelona have a mid-week clash with Leganes followed by a trip to Sevilla – again on Tuesday and Friday respectively.
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