Barcelona top for now as Messi scores winner vs Atletico 

Published: 27th February 2017 12:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2017 12:01 AM   |  A+A-

FC Barcelona Lionel Messi, right, scores a goal during a Spain's La Liga soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP)

By Associated Press

MADRID: Lionel Messi added to his impressive scoring run this season with a late winner in Barcelona's 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid on Sunday, a result that vaulted the Catalan club ahead of Real Madrid in the Spanish league.

Messi scored his 35th goal in 35 games with a shot from close range after a pass by Luis Suarez in the 86th minute, giving his team a two-point lead over Madrid, which can return to the top when it plays at Villarreal later Sunday.

It was Messi's league-leading 20th goal, and his 11th in the last 10 league games.

The result also gave the Argentina star his 400th victory since his official debut with Barcelona in 2004.

It was Barcelona's fifth win in the last six league games against Atletico, which hasn't beaten its rival in 14 league games, including the last seven at home dating back to 2010.

Diego Simeone's team, which had won four in a row at home and was unbeaten in eight league matches, dropped nine points off the lead.

Barcelona badly needed a convincing victory to regain confidence following an unimpressive 2-1 win over promoted Leganes — when Messi also scored a late winner — and a demoralizing 4-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain. The Champions League thrashing raised doubts about the team's potential under coach Luis Enrique.

Rafinha put Barcelona ahead on Sunday after a scramble in front of Atletico's goal in the 64th. The midfielder scored from close range after Suarez's shot pinballed around the area, hitting a couple of defenders and himself before getting to Rafinha.

Godin equalized six minutes later with a header off a corner kick, and Messi sealed the victory from close range after his initial shot was blocked by a defender in front of the goal. Messi was able to get to the rebound and easily found the net as Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak charged toward him.

It was Messi's 27th career goal against Atletico. No other team has conceded more goals to the playmaker.


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