Lionel Messi celebrated the birth of his second son by coming off the bench to score the winner as Barcelona came from behind to claim a vital 2-1 win away at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Real Madrid remain two points behind Barca at the top of the table after Cristiano Ronaldo became the club’s all-time leading scorer in La Liga with five goals in a 6-0 rout of Espanyol.
Messi started on the sidelines having missed training on Friday to attend the birth, a day after returning from international duty.
However, he was still to make the decisive contribution as he nonchalantly flicked home the winner 11 minutes from time after Neymar had cancelled out Fernando Torres’s opener.
Even without Messi, Barca were the dominant side early on at the Calderon with Ivan Rakitic forcing Jan Oblak into the first serious save of the game with a fierce drive from a narrow angle.
Torres was again chosen ahead of Jackson Martinez in attack for Atletico and he wasted the hosts’ best chance of the first-half when he blasted over under pressure from Javier Mascherano.
Luis Suarez should have given Barca the lead midway through the half when he turned Rafinha’s flick onto the crossbar from point-blank range.
Jose Maria Gimenez then made a terrific block to deny Neymar the opener after a rapid counter-attack from Barca, but the Uruguayan was also fortunate the referee didn’t point to the spot as the ball ricocheted off his hand to safety.
GOAL!! Messi gives Barca the lead against Atletico Madrid. https://t.co/eWHFw8bfVh
— Troll Football (@Troll__Football) September 12, 2015
Atletico struck first six minutes after the break when Torres latched onto Tiago’s through ball and his shot found the net via the far post.
However, the lead lasted barely three minutes as in the absence of Messi, Neymar was given the chance to strike a free-kick from the edge of the area and arrowed the ball into Oblak’s top right-hand corner.
Messi was introduced for the final half hour by Barca boss Luis Enrique and he and Neymar combined to set up a great chance for Suarez only for the former Liverpool man to scuff wide.
A neat exchange then followed between Messi and Suarez that freed the Argentine to lift the ball over Oblak into the far corner.