Football: Barcelona's star trio down Atletico Madrid 3-1 to ease crisis talk

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi scores his side's third and final goal. -- PHOTO: AFP
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi scores his side's third and final goal. -- PHOTO: AFP
(From left) Luis Suarez bagged his second La Liga goal, Neymar opened the scoring for Barcelona, while Lionel Messi hit the third to calm the Catalans' nerves after Atletico threatened to make a comeback. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA (AFP) - Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were all on target as Barcelona eased talk of a club crisis with a 3-1 win over La Liga champions Atletico Madrid on Sunday, Jan 11, 2015.

Messi shrugged off speculation surrounding his future at the Camp Nou to cross for Neymar to scramble home the opener and then tee up Suarez to register just his second La Liga goal.

The Argentine also handed Atletico a route back into the game, though, when he was adjudged to have brought down Jesus Gamez inside the area on the hour mark and Mario Mandzukic slammed home from the penalty spot.

However, Messi made amends by sealing the three points when he slotted home from close range three minutes from time to move Barca back to within a point of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Atletico are now four points adrift of Real, who also have a game in hand over both their title rivals.

"The crisis has already passed and now we need to have our minds on the field," Neymar told Canal Plus. "We don't have a problem. It is in the past and now we are together."

Barcelona had failed to beat Atletico in six meetings last season and would not have been looking forward to facing Diego Simeone's men after an unsettling week at the Camp Nou.

A 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad last weekend was followed by sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta's sacking and the club's under fire president Josep Maria Bartomeu calling club elections for the end of the season.

Meanwhile, reports suggested relations between Messi and coach Luis Enrique were at breaking point after the Argentine missed training on Monday.

However, the four-time World Player of the Year did his talking on the pitch as Barca's star-studded South American frontline guided them to victory.

Messi was first to threaten as he danced past Ateltico's stand-in left-back Jesus Gamez, but fired wide on his weaker foot.

The visitors weren't so lucky 12 minutes in when another dart from Messi saw him pull the ball across goal and after Suarez failed to connect, Neymar was on hand to sweep home his 17th goal of the season.

Atletico keeper Miguel Angel Moya then kept his side in the game with a fine double save to firstly parry Jordi Alba's fierce drive and then block Suarez's effort on the rebound.

The visitors were on the ropes in the first 45 minutes and teenage centre-back Jose Maria Gimenez was lucky to escape unpunished when he flew in dangerously on Neymar to leave the Brazilian with a bloodied ankle.

Neymar missed a guilt-edged chance to double Barca's advantage midway through the half when he headed wide with the goal at his mercy after brilliant play by Messi and Suarez.

However, when the second goal did come, Atletico had a right to feel hard done by as Messi appeared to use his hand to speed past Gamez before sliding the ball through for Suarez to slot home.

Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco balanced up that perceived injustice on the hour mark, though, as he pointed to the spot when Jesus Gamez went down under a challenge from Messi.

It was the first time that Messi had ever conceded a spot-kick in La Liga and Mandzukic did not pardon him as he slammed high into the roof of the net.

Fernando Torres was introduced by Simeone as Atletico searched for an equaliser and he was only denied a ninth goal in 12 games against Barca by Claudio Bravo's quick-thinking as the Chilean keeper rushed from his line to intercept Mandzukic's dangerous low cross.

But in a week where he has dominated the headlines, Messi rounded off his fine performance with a first goal against Atletico in eight games when he pounced on a loose ball inside the area to side-foot home.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.