Lionel Messi leads Barcelona back to the top of the standings…
The 32-year-old Argentine soccer star hit a sensational late goal on Sunday to give Barcelona FC a 1-0 win against rival Atletico Madrid, as the team reclaimed the top spot in La Liga from Real Madrid.
Messi, playing his 701st game for Barca, settled a pulsating and tense encounter in the 86th minute, galloping down the right wing before cutting inside and playing a one-two with Luis Suarez before guiding the ball into the bottom corner.
It was Messi’s first goal against Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium and gave his side their first win over their rivals at the ground in three attempts after successive draws in the last two seasons.
“Whenever you have a game like this which is really tight and really tough, being able to count on Messi is always an advantage,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.
The strike saw Barca return to the top of the standings with 31 points after 14 games, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference, while Atletico were left in the sixth spot with 25 points, having played one match more than Barca and Real.
Both sides hit the woodwork and Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen also made two stunning saves, while Atletico felt that Gerard Pique should have been shown a second yellow card in the second half for a late tackle on Alvaro Morata.
Atletico were also fortunate not to have a player sent off when Vitolo slammed into Pique’s knee with a fierce challenge a few minutes later after picking up an earlier booking.
“We feel very hard done by,” said Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez. “We played superbly and Barcelona had hardly any chances but when Messi appears he is capable of doing anything and he made it look so easy, that’s why he is the best.”
Atletico had won only one of their previous six games in all competitions and looked intent on making an early statement as they came out pressing Barca high up the pitch and peppering their box with crosses.