MADRID, June 17: In its first match without fans at the 99,000-capacity Camp Nou Stadium since the Spanish league was suspended because of the coronavirus, Barcelona defeated Leganes 2-0 with a goal by Lionel Messi.
Ansu Fati also scored as Barcelona overcame a slow start against its last-place opponent to open a five-point gap to Real Madrid ahead of the rival�s home game against Valencia on Thursday.
Fati opened the scoring just before halftime and Messi converted a 69th-minute penalty for his league-leading 21st goal.
It was also his 699th career goal for club and country.
Messi also scored as Barcelona returned to action on Saturday with a 4-0 win at Mallorca in its first game in more than three months following the pandemic break. The last time Barcelona played a home match without fans was in October 2017 amid the Catalonia separatist movement.
The team defeated Las Palmas 3-0 in a game played the same day of a controversial independence vote that the Spanish government deemed unconstitutional.
This time Barcelona was forced to keep fans away from the Camp Nou because of the pandemic, and the club placed banners and mosaics in the stands to honour those affected by virus.
Videos sent by fans were shown at the stadium, and music by local violoncellists was played during the moment of silence observed before the match in memory of the victims of COVID-19.
Leganes had the two best chances in the first 15 minutes � one blocked by defender Clement Lenglet in front of the goalline and another denied by the post � but Barcelona eventually took control and opened the scoring through Fati�s low shot from inside the area in the 42nd.
Messi�s 629th goal for Barcelona came from the penalty spot after he was fouled following a run that started near the midfield line. He fired a left-foot shot into the corner to open a seven-goal gap to Madrid�s Karim Benzema in the league�s scoring chart.
Luis Suarez, who returned to action last week after recovering from knee surgery, came off the bench in the 54th to replace Fati.
Antoine Griezmann had a goal disallowed in the 64th after video review determined that Nelson Semedo was offside before making a cross to the French forward.
Barcelona visits third-place Sevilla on Friday.
In other results on Tuesday, fifth-place Getafe drew 0-0 with Espanyol at home to remain winless after the break, while seventh-place Villarreal edged visiting Mallorca 1-0 for its second win in a row. Both Espanyol and Mallorca are in the relegation zone. Espanyol played a man down from the 16th as Bernardo Espinosa was shown a straight red card for elbowing an opponent. � AP