Liga – Barcelona clinch title with tense win at Atletico

Liga – Barcelona clinch title with tense win at Atletico

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Liga – Barcelona clinch title with tense win at Atletico

Lionel Messi’s outstanding second-half goal gave Barcelona a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid, moving the Catalonians into an unassailable position at the top of La Liga and dethroning Diego Simeone’s side in the process.

Lionel Messi’s outstanding second-half goal gaveBarcelona a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid, moving the Catalonians into an unassailable position at the top of La Liga and dethroning Diego Simeone’s side in the process.

Real Madrid claimed a 4-1 win over Espanyol, withCristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick to put him four clear in the race for the Pichichi, but the result was rendered irrelevant by Barcelona’s win at the Vicente Calderon.

The Liga win is just one prong of what could be a treble winning season for Luis Enrique and Barca, with finals in the Champions League and the Copa Del Rey still to come for the Catalan club.

Atletico Madrid put up a stiff fight, but ultimately relinquished their crown following the brilliance of Messi – who played a neat interchange with Pedro Rodriguez inside the penalty area before sweeping home a finish into the far corner of Jan Oblak’s net.

Claudio Bravo made a number of saves to deny the hosts a way into the match, with Jose Gimenez coming particularly close with one header from a corner kick. Oblak was also called into action on a number of occasions, as Barca chased down their 23rd Liga title.

There was an irony to the fact that Barcelona clinched the championship at the Vicente Calderon almost a year to the day that Atletico Madrid won last season’s crown at the Camp Nou, with Enrique’s men now primed for an historic treble in their first year under the new coach.

KEY STATS

14’ MESSI CHANCE: That was an opportunity for Messi! The little Argentine found himself a yard of space inside the penalty area, peeling away from his marker, but his header was straight at Oblak in goals.

20’ HOME OPPORTUNITY: How did Atletico Madrid keep that out of the net? Messi has a header on goal blocked by Juanfran, when his effort seemed to be heading for the Atletico Madrid goal. What a chance for Barcelona.

32’ PENALTY CALL: Big decision for the referee to make, with Alves looking for a penalty kick after a collision with Siquiera. But the man in black says it was a dive and books Alves for simulation. That was contentious.

45’ ASTONISHING SAVE: Excellent save by Oblak! Alves lines up a shot from about 25 yards out, with the effort dipping and swerving all over the place, but the Atletico Madrid keeper tips it over his crossbar.

51’ GODIN SHOULD DO BETTER: Big opportunity for Atletico Madrid! Godin gets up and beats Pique to a corner kick delivery from the right, but the centre-back powers his header over the top of Bravo’s goal.

66’ GOAL! Atletico Madrid 0 Barcelona 1: That could be the goal! That could be the goal that clinches the Liga title! Messi finds the far corner with an excellent finish after a one-two.

73’ SITTER: What an incredible miss from Neymar! Messi has put the opportunity on a plate for the Brazilian forward, who was unmarked six yards out, but he blasts his effort well over the bar. Skied!

90’ STILL IN THE GAME: Fantastic save from Oblak! The Atletico Madrid goalkeeper was wrongfooted by the Messi freekick, with Neymar lining up the set-piece as well, but he made the stop with an outstretched hand. Brilliant.

KEY STATS

Lionel Messi is the only player to have scored against Jan Oblak in a La Liga game at the Vicente Calderon.

Messi has scored 54 goals in 54 appearances for @FCBarcelona this season in all competitions.

TALKING POINT – How does Luis Enrique’s side compare to Pep Guardiola’s?

And so the comparisons have started already. With Barcelona on the brink of completing a treble of trophies this season, whose team was better: Enrique’s or Guardiola’s? There’s no doubt that the former has moved Barca away from the identity they established under the latter, and that has seen them adapt to the modern dynamic of the European game. Guardiola is still considered a demigod at Camp Nou, but Enrique wasn’t just the right man for the job – but the right man at the right time.

MAN OF THE MATCH – Lionel Messi

It was only appropriate that the man who has driven Barcelona to the Liga title in the second half of the season should be the player to push them over the line. His match-winning finish was excellent and an archetypal Messi goal, picking a way through the packed Atletico Madrid defence before picking a spot in the far corner that looked to be unreachable given the angles of the situation. Messi has had help in delivering this title, but he has been the star man in every way you look at Barcelona’s triumph.

PLAYER RATINGS

Atletico Madrid – Oblak 8, Siqueira 7, Godin 6, Gimenez 6, Juanfran 6, Suarez 5, Gabi 5, Koke 7, Griezmann 5, Turan 6, Torres 7. Subs – Garcia 5, Mandzukic 5, Saul.

Barcelona – Bravo 8, Alba 6, Mascherano 6, Pique 7, Alves 7, Iniesta 5, Busquets 6, Rakitic 5, Neymar 5, Pedro 7, Messi 8. Subs – Mathieu, Xavi, Rafinha.

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