This week’s La Liga game of the week saw Barcelona overcome a formidable foe in Atletico Madrid as they played out a tight 1-0 victory that was decided by a moment of utter brilliance by the talismanic Lionel Messi.
The victory came at a time when second placed Atletico had tightened the gap to the league leaders and has been perceived by most fans as symbolising the moment that Barca put a firm grip on a 25th La Liga title.
The only goal of the tie arrived in the 26th minute from Lionel Messi’s wand of a left foot as he delivered an unstoppable free kick into the top right hand corner of Jan Oblak’s net.
The free kick represented the 600th goal of Messi’s career, a landmark that seemed somehow apt for the significance that the goal will likely play in this year’s title race.
Messi is in the midst of a stellar La Liga campaign that could go a long way to seeing him secure a record sixth Balon d’Or award, with him having bagged 24 goals and 12 assists across his 27 appearances – a return that makes him the highest point scoring player in Spanish football with 118 points, with just Liverpool’s Mo Salah having outscored him across European football’s top divisions.
Despite having gone behind relatively early in the tie, Diego Simeone’s men failed to truly test their counterparts across the remainder of the clash – registering just six efforts at goal as they came up against a Barcelona side that have shown increased defensive fortitude under the tutorage of Ernesto Valverde.
Gameiro thought he’d brought the tie back into equilibrium as he hit the back of the net having come from the bench, however, he was cruelly denied the moment with Diego Costa’s set up correctly being adjudged to have been offside.
Suarez spurned a golden opportunity to double the hosts lead late on but it was ultimately of no matter, as his side held on for a critical victory.
The win means Valverde’s men have now conceded just 13 goals across their 27 La Liga appearances, a statistic from which he can rightly take a lot of pride.
Having kept the Atletico beast at bay, Marc ter Stegen secured his 16th clean sheet of the campaign – putting him just one behind the current leading goal keeper Jan Oblak, who just happened to be at the other end of the field.
The result means that the two sides will likely finish the campaign in the positions that they see themselves in now.
Whilst Barcelona could be set for a record campaign in which they have failed to lose a single league fixture, their guests on the weekend should also take heart in what has also been a more than impressive season.
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