Atletico Madrid 0-1 Barcelona
Lionel Messi scored the 86th-minute winner tonight, as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid to return to the top of La Liga.
It was a dramatic finish to a hard-fought game after both sides had hit the woodwork and the referee had a busy night.
Barca came into the game on the back of four consecutive wins, while Los Rojiblancos have been struggling, with only one win in six. But with a passionate 64,000 home crowd behind them and only three points separating the two sides it was all set up to be a mammoth clash. Particularly as the big pre-season La Liga 2019 news was the long-awaited switch of striker Antoine Griezmann from Atleti to Barca, and tonight the wanderer returned. And he lined up alongside the main man Messi, who scored a goal on his 700th appearance for the Blaugrana in a 3-1 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund this week.
Real Madrid’s win away to Alaves yesterday lifted Los Blancos to the top of La Liga, three points clear of Barca, but the Catalans are back on top and the La Liga 2019 betting odds back the title returning to the Camp Nou.
Highlights of the game
Barca had an early escape when Angel Correa won a corner, which was taken by Kieran Tripper and cleared by Gerard Pique. But the ball was recycled and eventually landed at the feet of Atleti defender Mario Hermoso and his effort was deflected onto the post before bouncing to safety.
And Hermoso had a golden chance to put the hosts ahead, on 21 minutes, when he was clean through with just Ter Stegen to beat, but the Barca keeper saved from point-blank range to keep the scores level.
In a hard-fought first half, there were four bookings. This was never going to be the friendliest of occasions, particularly for Antoine Griezmann. He was worshipped here as an Atletico player but the home crowd delighted in the run-around Kieran Trippier gave him in the first half. The French striker scored two goals for Los Rojiblancos when they knocked Barca out of the 2016 Champions League, but that meant nothing on a night on which the Madrid fans wanted to show they didn’t miss him. And they cheered every time Trippier gave him the slip, as the wing-back made a lot of ground down Barca’s left flank, giving him ample opportunity to get balls into the box. Ter Stegen was called on to make another great save when Alvaro Morata met a Trippier cross.
In the last action of the first half, the visitors came close when Pique rose to meet a corner and his header bounced down and onto the crossbar.
Ter Stegen had made two good saves to keep the scores level at the break while the woodwork had come to both teams’ rescue.
Barcelona came close again to breaking the deadlock on the hour when Jan Oblak struggled to hold on to Messi’s drive, but he gathered the ball before Luis Suarez could pounce. And moments later Hermoso made a block when Messi looked like he was just about to score from the edge of the box.
Griezmann finally got in on the action on 70 minutes, but he could only volley Suarez’ cross over the bar. Then Gerard Pique, who was on a yellow card, was lucky to stay on the pitch when he clattered into Morata, and the home crowd let the referee know exactly what they thought. It was an odd decision in a game which had already yielded seven cards.
But as the crowd fumed, that man Messi made it a whole lot worse with just five minutes left on the clock. Barca put together a superb move which ended with the little genius stroking the ball home from 20 yards. The Catalans celebrated while 90 per cent of the stadium fell silent.
Cometh the hour cometh the man!
The pre-match odds here at SBOBET had Barca as marginal favourites at 2.63 to win, but a draw looked on the cards until that man Messi stepped in.
The last two league clashes between Atleti and Barca at the Wanda Metropolitano ended in a 1-1 draw but tonight the visitors were just about worth their victory.
Barca had 63 per cent of the possession in the first half, but Atleti had more shots, 12 to six, but the on-target figure was just two to one.
Messi inspired the champions on to a dominant second half and they ended up winning the on-target shot count by five to two.
Los Rojiblancos are away to Villarreal next weekend. The Yellow Submarine has sunk to 13th after back to back defeats and face high flying Sevilla the following week.
After the Villareal game, Simeone’s side has a big Champions League tie at home to Lokomotiv Moscow.
Meanwhile, Barca is at home to Mallorca and then has a visit to Milan to take on Inter. The Blaugrana is already through to the Champions League Round of 16 while Antonio Conte’s side is locked on seven points with Borussia Dortmund.
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