Messi scores his 600th career goal (Image Source: PTI)
Lionel Messi scored his 600th career goal to give Atletico Madrid a disappointing 1-0 defeat and ensured Barcelona extend their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points.
Messi scored a beautiful free kick as Barca increased their lead from their nearest rivals to take a massive step towards winning the La Liga title.
Atletico had narrowed the lead to just five points but were unable to defeat Barcelona in a hard fought match that would have reduced the gap to two.
Barcelona’s victory, and a 34th league game unbeaten, means it is now Barca's title to lose with 11 games remaining. It was also the introductory defeat for Atletico boss Diego Simeone in 13 matches with Valverde.
Los Rojiblancos were happy to play counter attacking football and stayed deep within their half in the early stages, so Barca had most of the possession. New signing, Philippe Coutinho forced a save from Jan Oblak early in the first half.
But in the 26th minute, Messi was brought down in around 25 yards out. The position of the free kick was tailor made for Messi, and he sweet timed his left foot around the ball, curling it away from the diving goalkeeper Oblak and into the sweet spot of the top corner.
He now has a total of 600 career goals, 539 goals for Barcelona and 61 for Argentina in 747 total appearances and took his goal tally for this season to 32 goals in all competitions. But while Messi was taking the centre stage once again, Iniesta was hobbling following a tough clash with Saul Niguez and was substituted by Portuguese midfielder Andre Gomes after 35 minutes mark.
The 2013-14 champions Atletico, knowing defeat would end their title hopes to a certain extent, came with an attacking mind set in the second half. Antoine Griezmann, with seven goals in his last two matches, got his first attempt on goal in the 75th minute but his shot flew over the crossbar.
Luis Suarez thought he had scored the second for Barca moments later but his goal was ruled out for offside. At the other end, Kevin Gameiro thought he had snatched the much needed equalizer when he scored from close range but Diego Costa had been flagged offside.