La Liga – Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona: Messi and Neymar on hand to nullify Torres opener

Lionel Messi came off the bench to net the winner against Atletico Madrid, continuing Barcelona’s winning start to the new Liga season.

The Argentinean was dropped to the bench by manager Luis Enrique, with Messi having trained little this week following the birth of his second child, but he still managed to make a telling contribution as a second-half substitute.

Fernando Torres had given Atletico the lead after 51 minutes, only for Neymar to equalise with a stunning ferric just moments later. But the introduction of Messi swayed the contest in Barcelona’s favour, as the hosts struggled to contain their irrepressible frontline.

The result moves Barcelona three points clear at the top of La Liga, with Atletico Madrid relinquishing their 100 percent start to the 2015/16 campaign. Messi has also got himself off the mark for the league season, responding to the five goalsCristiano Ronaldo netted earlier in the day for Real Madrid against Espanyol.

Fernando Torres celebrates opening the scoring for Atletico Madrid
Fernando Torres celebrates opening the scoring for Atletico Madrid – Reuters

KEY EVENTS

4’ ACROSS THE FACE OF GOAL! Rakitic breaks through the Atletico Madrid defence, gets tackled with Suarez then smashing a cross right across the six-yard box. No takers, though.

15’ BIG CHANCE FOR BARCA! Great play from Iniesta releases Rakitic down the right side, who has space to take the shot. But Oblak is equal to it and makes the save at his near post.

25’ OFF THE WOODWORK! Suarez should have scored that. A set piece is flicked to the back post, where the former Liverpool man is lurking – but he guides his shot on to the crossbar.

36’ OPPORTUNITY FOR NEYMAR! Suarez passes to Neymar, who dribbles past two Atletico Madrid defenders before shooting inside the area – but Gimenez makes the sliding block from the Brazilian.

37’ SHOULD THAT HAVE BEEN A PENALTY? After Gimenez made the block from Neymar he appeared to effectively scoop the ball away from the Brazilian using his arm. Was that deliberate?

47’ TORRES SHOT ON GOAL! No, not Fernando – the other Torres, Oliver. The midfielder drives through the middle of the pitch, taking the shot from the edge of the box – but he drags it wide of the target.

49’ HUGE PENALTY CLAIM FOR ATLETICO! Torres shoots at goal, with the striker’s effort clearly bouncing up off the arm of Mascherano. But the referee shakes his head and refuses to point to the spot.

52’ GOAL! Atletico Madrid 1 Barcelona 0: Atletico have the lead and it’s Torres who finds the net! He caught out Barca’s offside trap and slotted home a finish in off the post.

55’ GOAL! Atletico Madrid 1 Barcelona 1: What a stunning reply from Barcelona! Neymar fires home a side-footed freekick into the top corner to equalise. Oblak had no chance with that.

65’ SHOOTING CHANCE FOR SUAREZ! The ball is played out to the former Liverpool striker, who has created some space for himself, but Suarez completely fluffs the shot on goal.

67’ HOW DID THAT NOT GO IN? Neymar does brilliantly to skip past the challenge of two Atletico Madrid defenders on his way through on goal, but Godin is on the line to make the block!

77’ GOAL! Atletico Madrid 1 Barcelona 2: He hasn’t been on the pitch for long but Messi has his goal! He applies the finishing touch to a Suarez one-touch pass through.

79’ GOOD SAVE FROM OBLAK! Atletico Madrid’s defence is caught slightly out of position, with Suarez given the chance to shoot from a tight angle, but Oblak makes the stop with his legs.

84’ HALF CHANCE FOR ATLETICO! Jackson takes the ball on his chest and tries to take the shot on the volley, but he loses his balance ever so slightly and Barcelona can recover.

Neymar celebrates his equaliser for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid
Neymar celebrates his equaliser for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid – Reuters

KEY STATS

Lionel Messi completed eight dribbles against Atletico – at least five more than any other player despite playing just 31 minutes.

Messi scored his first goal of the season from his 12th shot of the campaign.

Fernando Torres has now scored 10 goals against Barcelona – at least three more than against any other team.

TALKING POINT – Barcelona’s defensive troubles deepen

Luis Enrique’s backline was already stretched before Thomas Vermaelen was taken off in the first half with a calf injury. Dani Alves is injured, Gerard Pique is suspended, with the Belgian now adding his name to the list of defenders currently ruled out for Barcelona. Jeremy Mathieu has been used as a back-up option so far this season, but for the next few weeks at least he will be considered first choice.

MAN OF THE MATCH – Lionel Messi

Sure, he was only on the pitch for around 30 minutes – but Messi decided this game for Barcelona, and it could prove to be a pivotal result in the race for this season’s Liga title. The Catalans were quite simply a much better and more coherent team with their number 10 involved, and of course his finish for the winning goal wasn’t bad either. This match was about Messi, even when he wasn’t playing.