A clever goal from Leo Messi on 81 minutes gave Barça the three points against a tough tackling and competitive Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon tonight
The footballing Gods were certainly fair to Barça tonight and a cheeky strike from Messi towards the end of the game gave them a thoroughly deserved win that keeps them in the chase for the title. After a dominant first half against an ultra defensive Atletico Madrid topped off by a Dani Alves strike, Barça were stunned after the break by Simeone's team, who got an early goal, but Guardiola's men kept their heads, withstood the pressure and hit back with Messi's winner.
Barça made perhaps their brightest start to a game all season and after Xavi shot just wide early on and Messi had a great goal disallowed for an earlier handball, they dominated their hosts and kept them penned back in their own half with some careful patient football.
Xavi then brought a great save from Courtois from a 20th minute free kick and the team were boasting an astonishing 83% of possession, with Atletico trying to claw their way back into the match with a more physical approach . It was the creative team who got the rewards though, as on 36 minutes Messi played a clever ball out left to Cesc and the Catalan's pinpoint pass set up Alves to score.
Equaliser changes the storryline
Although the goal spurred Atletico to come out of their shell and Valdes made a good save to cut out a dangerous looking attack, Barça immediately took control again and finished the half in the lead and clearly the better team. Then, just after the break, as Simeone pushed his lines forward for a more attacking approach, Atletico got the equaliser through Falcao after Busquets had failed to clear a corner. Now it was the home team who imposed their trademark more intense and vertical style of play on the game.
Cheeky Messi catches hosts cold
Guardiola reacted on the hour mark by switching to a 3-4-3 formation - a high risk strategy that nearly backfired when Falcao forced a great save from Valdes. Alexis then had a couple of good opportunities – one of which he put away, but was ruled out for handball - before Messi took the home team by surprise with a quick free kick before the wall was set to give Barça the lead with about ten minutes left to play.
The team defended bravely in the closing minutes with Valdes again standing strong. It was a great win for the team, who celebrated the win together in the centre circle.