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 Alaves but Barca’s victory put them ahead on goal difference.
Atletico had enjoyed the best of the chances in an engrossing contest but remain winless in 19 LaLiga games against the Catalans.
Ernesto Valverdes’s side were indebted to goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for two breath-taking saves in the first half.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
ATLETICO MADRID: Oblak, Trippier, Felipe, Hermoso, Saul, Correa (Lemar 73), Herrera (Lodi 87), Thomas, Koke, Morata, Felix (Vitolo 66)
BOOKED: Felipe, Correa, Thomas
SUBS NOT USED: Adan, Arias, Llorente, Saponjic
BARCELONA: Ter Stegen, Roberto, Pique (Umtiti 83), Lenglet, Firpo, de Jong, Rakitic, Arthur (Vidal 73), Messi, Suarez, Griezmann
GOAL: Messi 85
BOOKED: Firpo, Lenglet, Pique, Rakitic
SUBS NOT USED: Neto, Wague, Alena, Perez, Fati
But Atletico were still dangerous and when Joao Felix nutmegged Pique the defender wrestled him to the ground to earn a yellow card – his seventh of the season, already more than in the whole of last season.
At the restart Messi shot from distance and when Oblak failed to hold the wet ball, Suarez almost turned in the rebound. He then shot straight at Oblak from Sergio Roberto’s cross. Griezmann then had the chance to silence the whistles but his volley sailed over.
Atletico had the next chance with first Angel Correa and then Trippier were foiled after Morata had battled to win possession on the edge of the Atletico area.
If Pique had earlier been lucky not to be sent off for what looked a second bookable offence he became the victim of an awful challenge from substitute Vitolo who had also already been booked.
The two players slid into each other and Vitolo’s studs ended up making contact just above Pique’s left knee.
He tried to carry on but went back down needing treatment and Samuel Umtiti had to prepare himself on the bench. Pique eventually hobbled off and Umtiti had to face the final frantic ten minutes.
It looked as if it might be Barcelona hanging on but it was Messi who raced away to score the winner.
Atletico had not deserved to lose but when a final second corner – with Oblak up in the Barcelona area – came to nothing, that was their fate. Barcelona with Ter Stegen brilliant at one end and Messi sublime at the other had done enough to win.