LIONEL Messi scored late on as Barcelona finally broke down a stubborn Atletico Madrid defence to take a 1-0 lead into next week’s Copa Del Rey quarter-final second leg.
The Catalans were largely frustrated by the defensive solidity of Diego Simeone’s team, with Luis Suarez passing up a number of opportunities to give his side a first half lead as Atletico looked to break on the counter.
But the game’s deciding moment came five minutes from full-time when Sergio Busquets was felled in the box by Juanfran. Messi saw his spot kick saved by Jan Oblak, only for the Barca number 10 to finish the rebound.
Luis Enrique stuck with the front three of Messi, Neymar and Suarez that has finally clicked in recent weeks, with Marc-Andre Ter Stegen replacing Claudio Bravo in goals. While Simeone opted for Fernando Torres up front, restoring Miranda to his backline alongside Diego Godin.
And the changes seemed to give the visitors more defensive fibre than they showed in the 3-1 Liga defeat at the Camp Nou just over a week ago, with Simeone blatantly casting one eye to next week’s second leg.
Atletico had looked set to take a goalless draw into the second leg, only for Busquets to go down easily in the box, winning Barcelona the penalty kick that Messi ultimately scored the winner from.
5’ OBLAK SAVE: Great save from the Atletico keeper, and wonderful play from Barca! Messi, Alves and Suarez link up beautifully, with some neat little flicks and tricks, but Neymar’s shot is saved by Oblak.
40’ SUAREZ MISS: Suarez should have scored! Rakitic plays a delightful volleyed pass through to the former Liverpool striker, but he allows the ball to bounce and skews his effort over the crossbar.
43’ TORRES BREAK-AWAY: So close to being clean through on goal! Torres breaks free of the last defender but tries to find Griezmann with a reverse pass. His pass though clips the heels of Pique and Barca survive.
75’ OBLAK STOP: For the first time in this second half Oblak is called upon to make a save. Iniesta lines up a shot from the edge of the box and pings it towards the near post, but the keeper gets down well to save.
85’ GOAL! Barcelona 1 Atletico Madrid 0: How unfortunate for the away side! Oblak saves Messi’s penaty kick, but the Argentine tucks away the rebound.