Barcelona secured what could be an important three points in the Spanish title race on Sunday afternoon as Ernesto Valverde's squad overcame second placed Atlético Madrid to stretch its gap to eight points at the top of the table. 

By 90Min
March 04, 2018

Barcelona secured what could be an important three points in the Spanish title race on Sunday afternoon as Ernesto Valverde's squad overcame second placed Atlético Madrid to stretch its gap to eight points at the top of the table. 

While the contest was griping and truly a tale of two halves, neither side were able to create an abundance of goals coring opportunities, and once again the victory was secured by the brilliant Lionel Messi, who, by netting his third free-kick in as many games, found his name on the score sheet for the 600th time in his career. 

The defeat for the Spanish capital outfit leaves them over two wins behind Ernesto Valverde's men, however, with the head-to-head system outweighing goal difference in the Primera Division, the deficit is closer to nine points. 

Respect enveloped the pulsating Camp Nou ahead of kick-off, with all players, coaching staff and supporters offering their remembrance to former Barcelona striker Enrique Castro Gonzalez, or Quini, who passed away late last month at the age of 68. 

However, despite a somber opening, the on-pitch action early on was anything but, with the hosts testing the Atleti defense's resilience frequently, although Blaugrana struggled to fashion any real sightings of note. 

But, in spite of the expected solid defensive structure from Diego Simeone's men, as the midway point of the first-half was struck, so was Jan Oblak's net, with the ever-reliable Messi providing a moment of magic on the grandest stage. 

The Argentine picked up possession in a pocket of space on the edge of the opposition area before being felled by visitors' midfielder Thomas Partey; a decision that would prove incredibly costly. 

In his two previous outings, the 30-year-old has placed his name on the scoresheet via dead-ball situations, both from similar areas, but different routes and the creative magician added a third in succession by lofting the ball over the wall and past the fully-extended dive from Oblak to mark his 600th goal for club and country. 

After breaking the deadlock, Barca's relentless attacking fluidity was only halted by Andre Gomes replacing the injured Andres Iniesta; however, as the Portuguese international was, albeit surprisingly, introduced, he almost catalyzed the second goal of the afternoon. 

The midfielder's seemingly unintentional footwork initiated a move which eventually found its way to Philippe Coutinho, who drove an attempt towards goal from 12 yards, only for Oblak to meet the vicious half-volley with a smart double-fisted save away to safety. 

As the closing moments of the first-half encroached, Atleti continued to offer very little in attack but remained resolute defensively, and following yet more possessional pressure but an absence of goalmouth action, referee Gil Manzano called an end to the opening rain-sodden 45 minutes. 

Following the break, there was a notable change of momentum, with Simeone's words of wisdom obviously including a more attacking-minded focus. However, despite their concentrated stay in Barcelona's half, no clear openings were fashioned, and the hosts almost provided the ultimate sucker punch. 

During a rare second-half sighting of the opposition penalty area, Barcelona again tested the reactions of Oblak, as Sergio Busquets arrowed a volleyed attempt towards the Slovenian's goal. But once again, the 25-year-old was equal to the strike and afforded his side the opportunity to grab an equalizer, or, potentially, even more as the last 15 minutes closed in. 

And with just five minutes remaining, Kevin Gameiro thought he had leveled things up as his half-volley rippled the back of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's net. But the 30-year-old substitute was only greeted with the linesman's flag after Diego Costa's left boot had strayed into an offside position before the Uruguayan knocked the ball down into the Frenchman's path. 

That proved the last goal sighting for the visitors in a tie which could condemn them to second-place come the end of this season and crown Barcelona champions of Spain. 

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