Lionel Messi netted a brace as Barcelona beat Las Palmas 3-0 at an empty Camp Nou in a match overshadowed by politics.

The Liga clash was played behind closed doors after Barca’s request for it to be postponed amid unrest during the Catalonia independence referendum was rejected.

Struggling Las Palmas, with Pako Ayestaran in charge for the first time, responded well to the unusual situation and hit the post in the first half, but leaders Barca eventually took control.

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Sergio Busquets broke the deadlock after the interval and Messi secured Barca’s seventh win from seven games with two typically well-taken finishes.

Confusion had reigned in the hours before the game, which it had seemed would be called off owing to the chaos around Catalonia.

But any postponement would have been at Barca’s request, and the authorities refused. Facing possible sanctions including forfeiture of the points, Barca announced just 20 minutes before the scheduled kick-off that they would play behind closed doors.

Las Palmas started the better, and Borja Valero flashed a shot across goal, but Barca responded with Sergi Roberto shooting at Leandro Chichizola.

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Messi forced Chichizola to deal with another free kick before Ivan Rakitic had an effort tipped over.

The breakthrough came four minutes after the restart when Busquets glanced home a Messi corner at the near post.

Tannane broke and fired wide after cutting inside as Las Palmas looked for a quick equalizer, but Barca turned up the pressure again.

Messi had another attempt beaten away by Chichizola and then planted a firm header wide after good work from Luis Suarez, who was also booked for diving after being played through on goal.

Another good chance fell to Messi after a corner but he dragged his shot wide.

There was a brief interruption as a protester got onto the pitch but the situation was quickly dealt with by security and Messi scored his second goal moments later.

This time, he raced onto Luis Suarez’ pass and fired it past Chichizola before the keeper had a chance to react.

That ended the game as a contest and Barca eased to three more points as they won for the seventh time in a row.

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