Sports Desk: Lionel Messi was away attending the birth of his son but Barcelona still had more than enough to beat 10-man Malaga 2-0 on Saturday (Mar 10) and move 11 points clear at the top of La Liga.
Messi was watching the game on a television in hospital as Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho put his team two up inside half an hour at La Rosaleda, before Samuel Garcia was sent off in the 30th minute for a dangerous tackle on Jordi Alba.
Down a man and without a win in 12 matches, Malaga might have feared a rout but Barca settled for a straightforward victory, perhaps with one eye on Wednesday's Champions League last-16 clash against Chelsea.
On Messi's withdrawal, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said: "I found out this (Saturday) morning, before leaving home, I had already been called by the delegate of the club and he had told me the circumstances surrounding Leo.
"We already more or less knew when it might happen. It wasn't very difficult to replace him because I had a clear idea of how the game would go."
Messi is expected back against Chelsea at the Camp Nou, where the score is 1-1 from the first leg, but Valverde will have been delighted with how his attackers filled the void, as Suarez, Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele all delivered excellent displays.
In particular, Dembele's brilliant turn and pass was bettered only by Coutinho's flicked finish for what was a superb second goal.
The win means Barca extend their advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid, who can pull the deficit back to eight points with a win over Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Malaga, meanwhile, remain rooted to the bottom of the table.
risingbd/Dhaka/March 11, 2018/Nasim