Magical Messi sends Barca top

Lionel Messi struck late in the second half to inspire FC Barcelona to a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday night.

Samuel Umtiti dropped to the bench as Gerard Pique returned to marshal the defence with Antoine Griezmann facing his former side for the first time since his big-money in the last transfer window.

Barca were under increasing pressure six minutes from kick-off when Mario Hermoso’s cross-cum shot from the right deflected against the post after Junior Firpo’s attempted clearance.

Excellent attacking play from Atleti after 20 minutes had Marc Andre Ter Stegen side-stepping Hermoso’s half-volley for a corner following a cross from the left.

As rivals Real Madrid escalated to the top of the table after victory on Saturday afternoon, the Catalans needed to respond to remain on track with Los Blancos than lose ground. Their first threat came after 42 minutes when Pique's header struck the crossbar.

Barcelona though remained under pressure ten minutes into the second half after Hermoso caused further damage down the right with a shot from a tight angle putting Ter Stegen in a spot of bother.

Diego Simeone made the first change of the game after 66 minutes when Joao Felix, much to the crowd’s disapproval, made way for Vitolo Machin.

The Catalans regained top spot on the league standings when Messi combined with Luis Suarez on the edge of the area to fire the winner on 86 minutes, shifting pressure back to Real in the process.

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