Lionel Messi scored his 700th goal of his career in a thrilling 2-2 draw against Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp on Tuesday evening.
In what was a compelling watch between two of the giants of Spanish football, a calamitous moment in the 11th minute from Diego Costa saw him put through his own net by attempting to clear a corner. To compound his misery, the striker then missed a penalty just minutes later. Despite VAR ordering a retake, he elected to pass responsibility to Saul, who equalised with a cool spot-kick.
Barcelona had their own opportunity from the penalty spot after the break and no other man was going to take it other than Messi and he scored with a cool Panenka to seal his milestone strike. Atleti were not done there though as another penalty was awarded. Saul again placed the ball down, hitting the back of the net to equalise and deny the hosts what would be a crucial victory in the race for the Spanish title.
Costa costs Atleti
With Barcelona desperate to claw back the three point lead that Real Madrid had built up at the top of La Liga, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Atleti start the better. Jordi Alba had to be alert to stab behind Renan Lodi’s cross before Yannick Carrasco’s free-kick from the left-flank caused havoc in the penalty area but bounced marginally wide of goal. A clever cut-back also just evaded Marcos Llorente within the opening ten minutes.
Despite their somewhat lethargic start to the game, Quique Setién’s troops then claimed the lead in bizarre circumstances. Messi’s whipped corner fell to Costa just yards away from goal but with his feet in a tangle, the forward backheeled the ball into the net, triggering celebrations from Barcelona and bemusement on his own face.
Second chance from the spot
The ex-Chelsea man did have a huge opportunity to redeem himself soon after as the visitors were awarded a penalty. It was again great work from Carrasco as he dribbled down the left and was taken down by Vidal as he attempted to come inside. Costa’s attempt was poor and ter Stegen easily saved.
That was not the end of the drama though as VAR intervened, electing that the German goalkeeper had moved before the whistle had blown. Saul this time took the spot-kick and made no mistake by tucking the ball into the bottom corner.
Messi, who had scored 31 goals against Atleti in his career before the game, went close to reclaiming the lead twice before the break as he at first fired just off target before forcing a flying save out of Jan Oblak with a free-kick.
Messi brings up 700
The Argentine did eventually have his say in proceedings and in the process racked up his 700th career goal. Just a few minutes after the restart, Felipe fouled Nelson Semedo in the box, giving Barca this time the chance to score from the spot. Messi netted in skilful fashion by chipping the ball home as Oblak leapt to his left-hand side.
Despite Semedo winning that spot-kick, he then conceded one – the third of the game – by bringing down Carrasco. Saul stepped up at the first time of asking and enjoyed the same result by scoring, regardless of ter Stegen guessing the right way.
The hosts continued to push in the closing stages in the game but Atleti’s tough resistance held firm as both sides departed with a point.
The result will massively disappoint Barcelona on the face of it. Despite coming up against an Atleti side that is some way off in the title race, the hosts were given a real test throughout the whole game. To both sides’ credit, some of the attacking football on display was exhilarating. Messi understandably steals the headlines having plundered his 700th career strike but Barcelona are now two points adrift of Real Madrid with six games left to play.
FC Barcelona: ter Stegen (6); Alba (7), Lenglet (7), Pique (6), Semedo (6); Rakitic (6) (Roberto (6), 63′), Busquets (7) (Fati (N/A), 84′), Vidal (7) (Griezmann (N/A), 90′); Puig (7), Suarez (5), Messi (8).
Atletico Madrid: Oblak (6); Lodi (6), Felipe (6), Gimenez (7), Arias (6); Carrasco (8) (Lemar (N/A), 84′), Niguez (8), Partey (7), Correa (6) (Vitolo (N/A), 84′); Llorente (7) (Felix (6), 69′), Costa (5) (Morata (N/A), 76′).
Goals: Costa (OG 11′), Niguez (PEN 19′, PEN 62′), Messi (PEN 50′)
Referee: Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez
Yellow Cards: ter Stegen (17′), Pique (18′), Niguez (35′), Felipe (51′), Messi (61′), Costa (75′), Carrasco (80′), Lemar (90+4′)
Red Cards: N/A