Messi's late winner against Atletico Madrid puts Barca top of La Liga

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi struck late to secure a valuable victory over Atletico Madrid.

Lionel Messi's winner against Atletico put Barcelona back on top of La Liga table on goal difference.   -  Getty Images

Lionel Messi scored a dramatic late winner as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium to return to the summit of LaLiga on Sunday.

Real Madrid had temporarily claimed top spot on Saturday after a 2-1 win at Deportivo Alaves but Barca's victory put it ahead on goal difference.

Atletico had enjoyed the best of the chances in an engrossing contest but remains winless in 19 LaLiga games against the Catalans.

Ernesto Valverdes's side was indebted to goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for two breath-taking saves in the first half.

Diego Simeone's Atletico went close to opening the scoring in a lively first half when Mario Hermoso struck a low angled shot against the post.

Atletico was then twice denied by the inspirational Ter Stegen. The German first blocked an instinctive Hermoso effort from close range, then managed to somehow keep Alvaro Morata's powerful header out.

Barca rarely threatened before the half-time, although Gerard Pique's had nodded against the crossbar.

The visitor improved slightly after the break, although Luis Suarez and Messi struggled to find a way past a disciplined and organised Atletico defence.

Pique was fortunate not to be shown a second yellow card for a callous sliding foul on Morata with 20 minutes left and the game appeared set to end in a goalless draw.

However, with four minutes left on the clock Messi delivered after a lightning quick move on the edge of the Atletico penalty area.

The Argentina forward received the ball from Suarez and emphatically curled a low shot past Jan Oblak to seal the win.

 

What does it mean? Barcelona shows character of champion

Real Madrid's victory the previous day increased the scrutiny on Barca, but it secured the kind of victory associated with proven champion.

On a day when it was largely second-best, Barcelona came away from Madrid with a vital victory and almost inevitably Messi was the man to provide the moment of quality.

Simeone, meanwhile, is still searching for his first LaLiga win over Barcelona since he took charge of Atletico in 2011.

Tremendous Ter Stegen showcases class

Barcelona goalkeeper Ter Stegen can spend some matches twiddling his thumbs. However, this was not one of them and he was an inspirational presence between the sticks for the Catalan side.

Joao Felix flatters then fades

Portuguese international Joao Felix showed some nice touches in the first half for Atletico but the 20-year-old attacking midfielder's influence on the game fizzled out. Atletico fans questioned his substitution, but it was the correct decision.

What's next?

Atletico travels to Villarreal on Friday in LaLiga, while Barcelona is in domestic action 24 hours later when it hosts Real Mallorca.

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