Lionel Messi popped up to score the winner for Barcelona at the Santiago Calderon on Sunday as the defending champions temporarily rose to the top of the La Liga table. Atletico Madrid, despite dominating during certain passages of the game, and finding a timely equaliser, were left licking their wounds after going down 1-2.
All the goals came in the second half of what was a fascinating contest between the two sides. The Catatonians found an unlikely goalscorer in Rafinha to break the deadlock. Ten minutes later, Atletico hit back through Diego Godin. Messi’s winner came off some excellent build-up play by Barca, and the Argentine found the net only four minutes from full-time.
The first half saw both the goalkeepers – Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jan Oblak – pull off excellent saves to keep the score goalless at the break. Antoine Griezmann, who was excellent in running the left channel on the break, tested Ter Stegen on two separate occasions in the first half.
The second attempt from the Frenchman came from a long-range strike, which the German keeper managed to tip the ball over the bar. Despite ringing in the changes after below-par displays in recent times, Barcelona were getting overrun in midfield in the first 30 minutes.
When the away side settled into a rhythm, they posed questions to Atletico’s defence, but their best effort was restricted to a Messi free-kick where Oblak showed great athleticism to parry the ball away. The Czech Republic keeper did well to deny Gerard Pique from a corner too.
The second half started very similar to the first, and Griezmann yet again came close after running clear of the defence. Here, Ter Stegen got the better of the Atletico forward by cutting out his scoring angles, and ball was hit straight at the former.
Barcelona’s goal was scrappy as it came with Luis Suarez’s shot rebounding off the Atletico defence. Rafinha pounced on the loose ball to drill it home. The home side suddenly started to look shaky at the back, but found the equaliser from an excellent glancing header, against the run of play.
Atletico pressed relentlessly in the final quarter of the game, but their defence, once again was found out. Substitute Ivan Rakitic, Samuel Umtiti, and Suarez exchanged passes before finding Messi, who rammed home from a rebound after finding space in the box. Minutes before hitting the winner, he was a picture of frustration and was shown a yellow card for dissent.
- Atletico Madrid 1 (Diego Godin) lose to Barcelona 2 (Rafinha, Lionel Messi)