Barca call on inspiration from Messi

MADRID • Lionel Messi celebrated the birth of his second son by coming off the bench to score the winner as Barcelona came from behind to claim a vital 2-1 Spanish Primera Liga win at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

The victory preserved Barca's perfect start to the season and they lead on a maximum nine points from three matches, three ahead of 2013-14 champions Atletico, who are fifth.

Real Madrid remain two points behind Barca after their 6-0 rout of Espanyol.

Messi started on the sidelines having missed training on Friday to attend the birth, a day after returning from international duty. But he was still able to make the decisive contribution as he flicked home the winner 11 minutes from time after Neymar had cancelled out Fernando Torres' opener.

"We played very well after going behind and we're very happy," Neymar told Spanish television. "Messi is the best player in the world and when he comes on to the pitch, everyone plays better."

Even without Messi, Barca were the dominant side early on at the Calderon, with Ivan Rakitic forcing Jan Oblak into the first serious save of the game with a fierce drive from a narrow angle.

Atletico, though, struck first six minutes after the break when Fernando Torres latched onto Tiago's through ball and his shot found the net via the far post.

The lead lasted barely three minutes as Neymar's free kick from the edge of the area arrowed into Oblak's top right-hand corner.

Messi was introduced for the final half hour, and the Argentinian and Neymar combined to set up a great chance for Suarez only for the Uruguayan to scuff wide.

Felipe Luis made a desperate clearance off the line from Neymar as the pressure built from the European champions. And it finally told when a neat exchange between Messi and Suarez freed the Argentinian to lift the ball over Oblak into the far corner.

"Apart from the first 15 minutes of the second half, Barcelona absolutely dominated the match," said Atletico coach Diego Simeone. "Barcelona were better when they had space with the ball and applied more pressure. We tried (to) push up a little higher, but the truth is we didn't have a good match."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2015, with the headline 'Barca call on inspiration from Messi'. Print Edition | Subscribe