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A year ago, Atlético Madrid won the league title with a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou and tonight Barça returned the favour and brought the trophy back home with a 0-1 win at the Vicente Calderón, as they took the first leg of their possible treble with a game to spare.
It took a second half strike from – who else? – Leo Messi to break down a rugged Atletico Madrid side, who weren’t about to hand over their title without a battle. As the second half ticked away, Real Madrid went one up against Espanyol, meaning Barça needed a goal to take the title this weekend and on 65 minutes, Alba worked the ball inside to Messi who played a one-two with Pedro and tucked it home with his left peg through a forest of legs. A brilliant goal fit for Champions!
Physical first half
In a typically rugged first half, Atlético Madrid had proved a tough nut to crack for Luis Enrique’s side and indeed two great stops from Claudio Bravo from a couple of early corners, the hosts’ biggest threat throughout, were the first chances of the game. Barça soon settled down though and eased into their rhythm, with Messi soon looking dangerous, linking up with Neymar and Pedro – in for the injured Luis Suárez. Two clear chances for the Argentinean which Oblak stopped were followed by what looked to be a handball by Juanfran from a Messi header.
Another big penalty shout
With Godín and Pedro both picking up yellows, the game was too stop start for Barça’s liking though they deserved another penalty on the half hour when Alves was brought down just inside the box, after Godín tugged his shirt - yet the free kick was given outside the box. Messi then clipped the bar with the free kick, with the sides going in level at the break.
Neymar and Pedro have chances to make it two
Although Godín and Torres both threatened before Messi’s goal seemed to take the wind out of the hosts and Neymar should have wrapped it all up when he fired high after a counter from Messi and Rakitic with just the keeper to beat. An equaliser from Espanyol against Real Madrid meant that for the moment, a draw would be enough, but Luis Enrique’s team refused to sit back – even though this did open them up to the occasional Atletico break. Barça have also proved themselves to be lethal on the counter of course and Pedro came agonisingly close to making it two with a shot from outside the box after a mazy run from midfield
Explosion of celebrations at the final whistle
For the last ten minutes Mathieu came on for Alba to counteract Atletico’s aerial threat and Xavi replaced Iniesta as Atlético tired and Barça enjoyed long periods of possession, as the clock wound down – a long range effort from Siqueira was tipped over by Bravo, but nothing was going to stop Barça now and as the final whistle went, the players celebrated on the pitch with the home fans joining in the applause for the new La Liga champions!
One down, two to go!
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