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The weather was cold. And wet. But the football was anything but. What a game Atlético and Barça put on at the Wanda Metropolitano.
It was a fabulous advert for La Liga as a product. It was intense. It was dramatic. Either side could have won, with every minute of this thriller bringing gripping new twists. The Wanda was absolutely roaring all the way… at least until there were just five minutes to go and the total deadlock was broken by the man who does these things best.
Leo Messi delivered a superlative finish to secure a dramatic late winner and ensure that Barça spend another week on top of the Liga table. What an ending to a wonderful evening of football.
Ter Stegen twice to the rescue
We can breathe now, but the story could have been so very different. It wasn’t the rain that Barça were worried about. It was the tornado of Atlético players heading in their direction. Chance after chance went begging for the home side, and Barça could feel very fortunate indeed not to be trailing at the break.
Mario Hermoso hit the post after seven minutes, Álvaro Morata headed narrowly over, Ter Stegen’s save to deny Hermoso was up there with Gordon Banks 1970, Hector Herrera misfired…
It was all about the home side. But football is all about taking your chances and Atlético were failing in that department.
It’s hard to explain how the half ended without goals, but we could start with FC Barcelona’s keeper. Morata’s header looked a sure-fire goal too, but Ter Stegen produced another astonishing point-blank save. German engineering at its best.
Los colchoneros led the shot count 7-0 before Barça had their first clear chance of their own. Ivan Rakitic will feel he should have done better. But Atlético’s early charge was waning. With Arthur conducting the orchestra, more ball and more chances followed for Barça. Gerard Piqué headed onto the crossbar shortly before half-time, when there was a feeling that Atleti may have peaked too soon and Barça were saving their best for second act.
Messi does it again!
Indeed, there was less intensity to the red-and-whites the more the tiredness set in. Barça stayed patient, waiting to find spaces in the defence. Diego Simeone’s side doesn’t allow for too many of those. Not that the MSG forward line were totally starved of chances but Jan Oblak or a defender always managed to get in the way.
Barça kept plugging away. More and more the dominant side, they had indeed saved the best for last. And the best is Leo Messi. He hadn’t been seeing as much of the ball as he would have liked, his flashes of class smothered by ultra-tight marking, but with the GOAT you always sense he might have something up his sleeve.
And he did. A delightful one-two with Luis Suárez and the Argentinian curled in a beauty, just out of reach of Oblak and inside the post.
What and ending to a humdinger of a game. The neutrals might feel a draw might have been the fairer result … but when you have Messi in your side, there’s always the feeling that something magic is going to happen.
And once again, he cast his spell.
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