Reuters

Late Messi magic sends Barca back top

Late Messi magic sends Barca back top

01/12/2019 at 21:51Updated 01/12/2019 at 23:24

La Liga, Wanda Metropolitano - Atletico Madrid 0 Barcelona 1 (Messi 86')

Lionel Messi scored a stunning late winner to send Barcelona back to the top of La Liga with a 1-0 away win over Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Simeone’s side had plenty chances to find the back of the net, but were thwarted more than once by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen who was in inspired form. As has been the case for much of this season, a lack of finishing touch proved to be Atleti’s downfall.

Mario Hermoso came close to opening the scoring after just seven minutes, but saw a cross-shot deflected on to the post. The defender then had a close-range effort saved by Ter Stegen when he really should have found the back of the net.

Ter Stegen pulled off another impressive stop to deny Alvaro Morata’s header from breaking the deadlock before Gerard Pique powered a header from a corner kick down into the turf and on to the crossbar.

The match looked set to end in stalemate until Messi picked up the ball, played a one-two with Luis Suarez and guided a trademark left-footed finish into the far corner of the net, once again sending Barcelona ahead of rivals Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on goal difference.

TALKING POINT - Yet another golden moment for world football’s golden man

Internet leaks claim Messi will be handed a sixth Ballon d’Or on Monday and the great man illustrated why he remains the best in the world with a trademark winner. 2019 hasn’t been the best of years for Barcelona and even for Messi, but the Argentine has made the stupendous mundane. Barca have long been dependent on their number 10, but that reliance has never been as great as it is now. They’re not far from being a one-man team (although on tonight's form, Ter Stegen might argue it’s a two-man team).

MAN OF THE MATCH - Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona)

In the end, Messi secured all three points for Barcelona with a trademark moment of magic, but he wouldn’t have had that chance had Ter Stegen not pulled off a number of stunning saves earlier in the match. The German’s best save came from Mario Hermoso who must have thought he was set to score only for Ter Stegen to deny him from close range. There was also a wonderful save to deny Morata. He was the scourge of Atleti’s attack.

PLAYER RATINGS

Atletico Madrid - Oblak 6, Trippier 6, Felipe 6, Hermoso 5, Saul 5, Herrera 7, Thomas 5, Koke 5, Felix 6, Correa 6, Morata 7. Subs - Lemar 5, Lodi 4, Vitolo 5.

Barcelona - Ter Stegen 9, Roberto 6, Lenglet 6, Pique 5, Firpo 5, De Jong 5, Rakitic 5, Arthur 6, Messi 7, Griezmann 5, Suarez 6. Subs - Vidal 5, Umtiti 4.

KEY MOMENTS

7’ Off the post! Inches away from being an early opener for Atletico Madrid! Hermoso's cross-shot picks up a deflection off Lenglet, wrong-foots Ter Stegen, but comes back off the base of the post! So close!

21’ What a save! How didn't that find the back of the net?! Felix found Hermoso at the back post with a superb cross, he met it on the full volley, but Ter Stegen made the reflex save with his legs to prevent the hosts from taking the lead!

41’ TER STEGEN! WOW! Morata must have thought he'd scored, powering a header down into the ground from a corner kick, but Ter Stegen gets down to make the diving save! It bounced right in front of him as well! Incredible!

44’ Off the crossbar! Very close to a Barcelona opener! Pique gets on the end of a corner kick delivery into the box, it was a powerful header from the defender, he beat Oblak, but didn't beat the woodwork!

75’ Cleared off the line! Morata won the ball back on the edge of the Barca box, Correa then played a low ball across the six yard box, Morata flicked it towards goal, but Roberto was on hand to clear off the line!

82’ Pique in trouble! Vitolo went in hard and high on the Barcelona centre back and Pique seems to be in trouble as a result. It looks like Barca are going to be forced into a change here. Umtiti is warming up. Indeed, Pique is coming off.

86’ GOAL! Atletico Madrid 0-1 Barcelona: The breakthrough! Barcelona have found the back of the net, but will it prove to be the winner? Messi dribbled forward, played the one-two off Suarez and then guided a trademark finish into the far corner of the Atleti net with his left foot!

KEY STATS

Lionel Messi scored his first goal at the Wanda Metropolitano meaning he is now the first player in La Liga history to have scored at 38 different stadiums.

Gerard Pique has been booked 10 times in 17 La Liga appearances this season, three more times than over the whole 2018/19 season.