Liga - Messi magic helps Barca snatch win

Sun, 26 Feb 22:35:00 2012

Barcelona's superior possession proved the difference as the champions beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 at Vicente Calderon.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates a goal with his teammate Xavi Hernandez during their Spanish First Division soccer match against Atletico Madrid at Vicente Calderon - 0

A first half strike from Dani Alves in the 36th minute and a moment of magic from Lionel Messi nine minutes from time handed Diego Simeone his first defeat as Atletico manager, but it was an admirable display from the hosts who had equalised through Falcao soon after half-time.

The visitors had the better of the first half, but got off to a nervy start when Victor Valdes fumbled a cross from Gabi in the 6th minute.

They thought they'd taken the lead when Messi danced through on goal and chipped the ball over Courtois, only for play to be brought back for deliberate handball, an offence he was booked for.

Barcelona continued to dominate possession, but didn't create anything until the 20th minute. Xavi curled a free kick towards the top corner of the Atletico goal, which was acrobatically tipped over by Courtois.

The champions finally made the breakthrough in the 36th-minute when Dani Alves finished off a flowing move, started by Messi. The Argentine played in Cesc Fabregas fired across goal for the Brazilian to open the scoring.

Atletico looked far from out of the game at half-time, their powerful and patient style matching Barcelona's free-flowing passing.

The home side were quick out of the blocks at the beginning of the first half, focusing their attack down the wings.

They got their reward just four minutes into the second half, when Sergio Busquets failed to clear a corner from the right, instead flicking the ball unwillingly to Falcao to volley in for the hosts to equalise.

Atletico continued to force Barcelona into making mistakes, playing high up the pitch to give the opposition no time to settle into their usual style.

Barca know how to step it up a gear though and in the 67th-minute, Alexis Sanchez went close when he headed over a dangerous Dani Alves cross.

Just two minutes later, Falcao, who had looked dangerous all evening, had the opportunity to give Atletico the lead. The Columbian went through on goal after a mix-up between Eric Abidal and Javier Mascherano, but he could only strike his effort straight at Valdes.

The game looked to be heading towards a draw until a free kick was given on the corner of the Atletico area for a foul on Barca substitute Pedro.

Messi asked the referee to take the set piece quickly and promptly curled his effort above the wall which dipped into the opposite corner of the goal.

It was a moment of genius from Barcelona's star player, and it proved to be the winning goal.

Atletico threw everyone forward in the final stages to try to salvage a point, and Juanfran went close when his shot from close range was well saved by Valdes.

Barcelona remain in sight of leaders Real Madrid but still have a 10 point deficit to claw back while Atletico's impressive seven game unbeaten run comes to an end. Simeone's men remain ninth, and travel to Sevilla next.   

Richard Newman / Eurosport

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