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FC Barcelona clinched a hugely valuable late victory at the ever tricky Vicente Calderón on Sunday evening, with Leo Messi scoring the winner with four minutes to go.
Atlético Madrid, as always, made life difficult for Barça and looked to have salvaged a point after Godín cancelled out Rafinha’s opener but the mercurial Argentine came up trumps once again for Luis Enrique’s side.
Two half chances for Atlético in the first five minutes for the in-form Gameiro and the returning Godin served as an early warning that the defence would need to be on their toes at all times.
Los Colchoneros continued to pile on the pressure in the early parts, rarely allowing Barça to venture out of their own half. Griezmann was the latest to test the defence’s resolve as Umtiti’s attempted clearance fell to his countryman but atoned with a block of the goal-bound effort.
Ter Stegen was then called into a spectacular stop on 26 minutes when Griezmann unleashed a thunderous strike with his right-foot from outside the box.
A quick counter-attack resulted in a goalmouth scramble which Luis Suárez eventually headed in but the referee adjudged the Uruguayan to have fouled Oblak, ruling out the goal.
Chances were sparse for Barça in the first half but Messi so nearly came up with the goods from very little. His perfectly struck free-kick was arrowing towards the top corner, only for it to be diverted over by Oblak’s outstretched fingertips.
Piqué then went close just before the break as he headed a corner towards goal but the big Slovenian keeper got down low to save on the line.
In the first five minutes of the second half, Barça managed what they did not in the first 45, as a clear chance in on goal arrived at the feet of the usually-lethal Suárez, but the Uruguayan could not sort his feet out and snuffed the ball wide.
Rafinha breaks the deadlock but joy is short lived
That chances was soon forgotten on 64 minutes as the Catalans took the lead. While certainly not a textbook Barça goal, Rafinha was on hand to drive the ball past Oblak after Suárez’s attempted effort deflected into the Brazilian’s path (0-1).
It was Rafinha’s sixth goal of the season from just his eighth attempt on goal, and it was looking to be the most valuable.
However, that joy lasted for very little as the hosts were square just six minutes later. Godín, returning from injury, leapt highest to meet Koke’s inswinging free-kick (1-1).
It was a huge setback for the Barça players, who had battled hard to get ahead. And the goal meant that the hosts, content with the point, retreated even deeper.
Messi snatches the points
Luis Enrique’s men continued to push for maximum points and again managed to scrape out a goal with just four minutes to go.
As was the case against Leganés last week, with the game looking to be headed to a 1-1 draw, Messi found space in the box to receive André Gomes’ square pass and, after an initial block from the defender, toe-poked the ball at the second attempt (1-2).
Piqué made a crucial clearance in injury-time with Torres ready to pounce in the six-yard box, moments before the final whistle which confirmed a precious three points to put Barça temporarily top of La Liga.
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