Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi has scored 22 goals in as many La Liga games against Atletico

Lionel Messi scored a late winner as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid to go briefly top of La Liga.

Rafinha gave Barca the lead when Luis Suarez - who had an effort ruled out - took a shot which ricocheted off two defenders to land at his feet.

Diego Godin levelled when he headed home Koke's free-kick.

But Messi pounced in the 86th minute to win the game for the champions after his initial effort was blocked by defender Stefan Savic.

Real Madrid went back to the top of the table by one point later in the day when they came back from 2-0 down to beat Villarreal 3-2. They still have a game in hand on Barca.

Atleti, the 2014 champions, are now 10 points off leaders Real.

Messi is Barca's saviour again

Barca were far from their best again, but they have now followed their 4-0 Champions League humbling by Paris St-Germain with two 2-1 victories in La Liga - with Messi scoring a late winner in each of them.

Atletico dominated the first half, with Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen making a multitude of saves. The visitors improved after the break but looked destined to be held until Messi's late intervention.

The Argentine, who had earlier forced a brilliant Jan Oblak save from a free-kick, pounced late on again from close range. Luis Suarez played the ball back to Messi, whose first shot was blocked by Savic. But he remained alert to poke home the rebound and send Barca top for four hours.

That was Messi's 20th La Liga goal in 21 games this season - and his 21st against Atletico in the league in as many attempts.

Atletico's title dream well and truly over

Atletico had looked well out of the title race at the end of 2016 but a run of eight La Liga games without a defeat, including six wins, had given them an outside chance of mounting a late challenge.

But nine points off Barca and 10 off Real, who have played one game fewer, is surely too big a bridge at this stage of the season, even for the brilliant coach Diego Simeone.

They will come to rue a series of missed efforts - with Godin driving over, and Gabi and Antoine Griezmann forcing saves from Ter Stegen in the first half, and the German again denying Griezmann after the break.

Godin's goal, his first against Barca since the effort which won the 2013-14 La Liga title, had looked enough for a point before Messi's late winner.

Now the real question is whether Atletico can hold onto the final Champions League qualifying spot, with fifth-placed Real Sociedad sitting only one point behind them.

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Sunday 26th February 2017

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Real Madrid23174260223855
2Barcelona24166265204554
3Sevilla24164448291952
4Atl Madrid24136544212345
5Real Sociedad2414283732544
6Villarreal24109532181439
7Eibar2411583931838
8Ath Bilbao2411583129238
9Espanyol249873331235
10Celta Vigo2310493737034
11Alavés248972429-533
12Las Palmas2477103236-428
13Valencia2475123443-926
14Malaga2468103140-926
15Real Betis2366112337-1424
16Leganés2456132039-1921
17Dep La Coruña2347122639-1319
18Sporting Gijón2445152648-2217
19Granada2437142252-3016
20Osasuna2417162455-3110
View full Spanish La Liga table

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