Out of all the teams in Spain, there is none that the world’s best player likes scoring against more than Atlético. On Saturday night, Lionel Messi single handedly decided the match, and netted a hat-trick against his favourite opposition, as Atlético went down 3-0 at Barcelona.
Despite a stronger period just after the break, Atlético never stood a chance against Barcelona. From the first minute on, the home team pressured Atlético’s defence and created two opportunities for David Villa. He looked rusty and couldn’t make the most of them.
After just seventeen minutes, Lionel Messi opened the scoring from outside the area with a powerful strike after comical defending by Circus Atleti. On his way to our goal the Argentine made a sharp turn to his left which allowed him the space to shoot while Filipe, Assunção and Ujfalusi all clashed into each other.
A minute later Villa almost doubled Barcelona’s lead but the Spaniard hit the side-netting. The Blaugrana train didn’t stop in search of the second goal as Messi shot just wide after a lovely weighted through ball by Alves.
Shortly after, De Gea made a great save with his feet, as Pedro came close to scoring his seventh goal in as many matches. But on the next occasion Barcelona again found the net. David Villa slipped the ball through but although Antonio López seemed to reach it first, his challenge wasn’t enough to stop Messi from scoring his second from close range.
Until then Atlético hadn’t recorded a single shot on target and our first opportunity finally came when Tiago played what seemed to be a pass to Victor Valdés.
Just before the break Agüero turned past three challenges, from Piqué, Abidal and Maxwell, but saw his shot blocked for a corner.
At the other end, Villa again missed the target after he tried to bend his shot towards the far corner. In added time of the first half Atlético thought to have scored a goal but referee Turienzo Álvarez wouldn’t let it stand as he had not allowed Tiago to take a freekick quickly.
At half time Quique Sánchez Flores decided to bring on Diego Forlán for the invisible Fran Mérida, which turned things around for Atlético. We actually were the better side for an extended period, but failed to score to make this match interesting again.
Our biggest chance came in the 53rd minute, when Filipe saw his shot cleared off the line. Diego Forlán had found the Brazilian after a cross came in from the right, but Filipe’s shot was blocked on the goalline by Gerard Piqué.
Forlán again almost set up a goal when he headed a freekick towards the far post, but Agüero and Godín got in each others way and wasted the opportunity.
After that Barcelona’s midfield took control of the match again. Twenty minutes before time David de Gea made an amazing save from a Messi header after the small Argentine had managed to leap over Antonio López.
In the 77th minute Pedro missed the goal by an inch, and the match looked destined to end at 2-0. But, two minutes later, Barcelona struck again. Messi put through Villa who found De Gea in his way, but the rebound fell for the World Player of the Year who then completed his hat-trick.
The last chance of the game was for Diego Godín but the Uruguayan centre-back couldn’t direct his header towards Valdés’ goal.
With today’s victory Barcelona have set a record of 16 consecutive wins in la Liga, while Atlético suffer their sixth loss from the last nine games and remain in the middle of the table. They can fall as low as ninth if Sevilla and Real Sociedad win this weekend. We are currently 14 points away from the Champions League places.
Line-up: De Gea; Valera, Ujfalusi, Godín, López; Reyes, Tiago, Mérida (“45 Forlán), Assunção (“57 Koke), Filipe (“76 Elias); and Agüero.
Goals: 1-0 Messi (“17); 2-0 Messi (“28); 3-0 Messi (“79)