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Messi scores late as Barcelona beats Atletico 1-0 in Copa

Barcelona, Spain: Lionel Messi finished off his own missed penalty with five minutes left to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.Atletico
messi scores late as barcelona beats atletico 1 0...
India TV News Desk 22 Jan 2015, 07:03 AM IST

Barcelona, Spain: Lionel Messi finished off his own missed penalty with five minutes left to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak blocked Messi initial spot kick, but he couldn't recover in time to stop Messi from rushing forward to slam home the rebound and ignite the Camp Nou. Messi was set up to get the winner after Juanfran Torres fouled Sergio Busquets in the area.

"I still see the tie as 50-50, and we will go into the second leg aiming for a win," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.

Just two weeks ago he was under intense pressure following a loss and the firing of Barcelona's sports director, but the coach has since been bolstered by a second victory over Atletico in 10 days following its 3-1 win here in the league. Atletico went undefeated in six meetings with Barcelona last season en route to winning the league and reaching the Champions League final.

The return leg at the Vicente Calderon will be next Wednesday, with the winner of this series advancing to meet either Villarreal or Getafe.

Villarreal beat Getafe 1-0 after midfielder Bruno Soriano also scored with five minutes to play when he curled home a free kick.

Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao drew 0-0 at Malaga. The winner of that contest will move on to face Sevilla or Espanyol, which play on Thursday.

Barcelona provided a flash of what it does best just four minutes after kickoff, when Messi and Dani Alves worked a mesmerizing one-two before Luis Suarez laid the off for Neymar to draw a one-handed save from Oblak.

Diego Simeone's side then imposed a slower pace and got what it wanted: A number of set pieces that it usually excels at executing.

But Barcelona's improvement in defense— it has conceded a league-low nine goals— was evident when Atletico failed to convert its five corner kicks into shots on goal, leaving it with Antoine Griezmann's header over the top in the 35th minute for its only clear chance of the night.

"Barcelona has been working hard at defending," Simeone said. "It was tough for us to get out and launch our attack, even though we had the game under control.

"We were closer than we were the other day at least as far as the result goes. But it won't change how we play in the return leg."

Suarez had a golden opportunity a minute after Griezmann's miss. But as so often in his first season at Barcelona, the Uruguay forward ended up falling to his knees and hiding his face in his hands after he sent Ivan Rakitic's superb lobbed pass over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

The counterattacking connection between Griezmann and Fernando Torres had proven key in eliminating Real Madrid in the round of 16, and the two almost linked up again on the break in the 41st — only for Gerard Pique to intercept Torres' pass.

In the second half, Barcelona was able to increase the tempo. Its only reward, though, was Andres Iniesta's shot into Oblak's arms in the 74th, and its frustrations with the referee earned Suarez and Javier Mascherano bookings for protesting.

But it was soon the turn of Atletico's players to argue when the whistle blew after Busquets went down, having been fouled from behind by Torres in a scrum for the ball after Messi's free kick had hit the defensive wall.

Oblak guessed that Messi intended to strike the resulting spot-kick to the goalie's left side. But Messi was the quickest to the ball to take the victory with his 29th goal in all competitions this season.

 
   
 

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