In a hard-fought contest in the suburbs of Madrid, Barcelona beat Getafe 1-2.

The result gives Barça a two-game lead at the top of La Liga. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Leo Messi

As always, it seems. Even recently returning from his Christmas holidays in a tricky away fixture can’t stop Messi’s magical roadshow. The Argentine wasn’t at his illusory best but still produced several moments that defied belief. First, with his size desperately under pressure at the start of the game, Messi turned a lucky deflection to in the opening goal by deftly nutmegging the goalkeeper with a volley and then scoring from an angle of less than 30 degrees.

Mostly players would have stopped there, such an act of hocus pocus draining their magic meter for the rest of the game. But not Messi. Oh no. He kept it coming with some utterly outrageous passes ripping Getafe to pieces, including one to Luis Suárez that was geometrically outrageous. And then, after a slip in the second half caused him to fail to score after being put through 1v1, when one could have reasonably expected his head to drop, he managed to pull out a stupendous, reality-bending cross to find Luis Suárez about forty yards away.

Loser: Jaime Mata

When you’re 1-2 down to Barcelona on a Sunday night despite your side playing with drive and purpose and an almost vindictive energy to your play, chances are going to be important. Getafe fought Barça tooth and nail from the first whistle to the end, evidenced by the fact that when Jorge Molina came off the bench, striker Jaime Mata (who had scored, but had also run himself ragged) stayed on.

Then the decision seemed to be vindicated with just over an hour gone, when the ball was fed in behind and Mata was 1v1 with the superb Marc-André Ter Stegen. Mata showed an incredible deftness of touch to breeze by the German and, with the goal mouth gaping… put it wide. He put it wide. And in the end Getafe did lose 1-2, so Mata’s earlier goal counted for nought and his miss robbed Getafe of what would have been a well-deserved point.

Winner: Djené

Sometimes you watch a player turning out for a mid-table side and you can almost see the transfer to a bigger club in their future. Djené’s performance against Barcelona was one such display. The Togolese defender was so outrageously good that it defies belief.

He was physically dominant, bullying Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembélé in regular 50/50’s. He was technically dominant, tackling Leo Messi and every other Barcelona player that went near him. He was mentally dominant, refusing to crumble even as Barcelona’s response to Djené’s genius was for Messi to score after a lucky deflection and then Luis Suárez to bang in a 25 yard volley.

This was an almost perfect defensive display. If he’s still at Getafe on February 1st, then someone will have missed out on a genuine steal. And if he’s still at Getafe on September 1st? Every club in Europe with the available funds needs a slap.

Loser: Nelson Semedo

When Sergi Roberto got injured, it forced Ernesto Valverde to forego his usual instincts and play Nelson Semedo in every game. The Portuguese wasn’t the favoured right-back because he doesn’t use the ball as cohesively with the rest of the side as Roberto can, even though he is a much better defender.

But, hey, with Semedo in the side Barcelona actually began defending with a degree of competence again, keeping three consecutive La Liga clean sheets. With him tracking back regularly and using his pace and positional intelligence as defensive weapons, the Blaugrana weren’t as exposed as they have been all season.

So of course, Sergi Roberto walks back into the team the first time he’s healthy. And then proceeds to defend poorly all game.

Winner: Barcelona

Obviously, on the one hand, Barcelona won the game. This alone makes them winners. But it was the manner in which they won: Getafe had a goal disallowed early on after a generous foul given as Clement Lenglet was “taken out.” Barcelona’s first goal involved a huge slice of luck with the ball deflecting up and over the defence for Messi. Barcelona’s second goal was a one-in-fifty volley and Jaime Mata missed an open goal late on. Barcelona were well-matched today in their first match after the winter break, and needed a hefty slice of luck to get the win. Fortunately for them: they got it.

Loser: La Liga

After an incredibly tight first few months of the season where no one side managed to stake their claim as La Liga leaders and title favourites, things are taking a familiar shape. Victory tonight has put Barcelona five points ahead of second-place Atlético Madrid, seven points ahead of third-placed Sevilla, nine ahead of fourth-placed Alavés and a whopping 10 points ahead of fifth-placed Real Madrid.

They have a cushion at the top of La Liga and avoided a potential bananaskin result away to Getafe. They have the most goals in the competition (29 more than their nearest rival) and their goal difference (+30) is more than double their nearest rivals (+13). This is beginning to feel a lot like when the Blaugrana, who have won 7 of the last 10 Ligas, put their foot down and pull away from the pack.

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