Alexis Sanchez scored the game's lone goal to give Barcelona the victory over Espanyol.
David Ramos/Getty Images

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Alexis Sanchez scored a second-half goal as Barcelona and Lionel Messi struggled past Espanyol 1-0 to remain top of the Spanish league.

Neymar drew two defenders before guiding a pass through both pairs of legs across goal for Sanchez to tap in at the far post for the easy 68th-minute winner.

Barcelona opened up a four-point advantage over Atletico Madrid, which plays Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, and a nine-point lead on Real Madrid. Madrid faces Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Messi is coming off one of his worst months of football, having not scored in the league since September.

The Argentina international, who has been troubled by an injury, lacked rhythm and made uncharacteristic turnovers at the Camp Nou Stadium to start November goalless.

Barcelona plays at AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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