MADRID: Atletico Madrid defeated Huesca to regain sole possession of the La Liga lead on Thursday, while Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona stayed in the title race with a victory over Getafe.
Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco scored a goal in each half to secure a 2-0 home victory for Atletico, who moved three points in front of second-placed Real Madrid.
Messi’s double in a 5-2 win over Getafe helped Barcelona return to third place. The Catalan club are two points behind Madrid and five behind Atletico with a game in hand.
Getafe players entered the field at the Camp Nou Stadium wearing T-shirts condemning the proposed Super League. Barca president Joan Laporta had earlier on Thursday defended the largely-closed breakaway competition, which essentially already folded after widespread criticism against it.
Defending champions Real had provisionally taken the lead on Wednesday by winning 3-0 at Cadiz.
None of Spain’s leading trio appear to have been affected by an incredible few days off the pitch, which saw Real, Atletico and Barca all sign up for the hugely controversial European Super League on Sunday.
Atletico withdrew from the breakaway competition on Wednesday but Barca and and Real remain part of a project that would transform the fabric of European football.
Atletico were coming off a 5-0 rout of last-placed Eibar after two consecutive setbacks had allowed Real and Barca to move closer to the top.
“This league is very complicated, we can’t relax,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “We already have to start preparing for our next match.”
Simeone was still without forwards Luis Suarez and Joao Felix because of injuries.
Correa, one of the players replacing Suarez and Felix, opened the scoring after going past a defender inside the area and firing a low shot into the net in the 39th minute at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Atletico were in charge but it took them until the 80th minute to make sure of victory, Carrasco diverting in after the tireless Marcos Llorente robbed the ball back on the edge of the area and gave his team-mate a simple finish.
It was the second consecutive loss for Huesca, who stayed just inside the relegation zone.
MESSI DOUBLE FIRES BARCA TO VICTORY
Messi gave up the chance for a hat-trick on as Barca held off a late fightback from Getafe.
Messi scored twice, opening the scoring in the eighth minute and making it 3-1 in the 33rd, and could have had a third in injury-time at Camp Nou but deferred a penalty to Antoine Griezmann, who completed what was in the end a comfortable victory.
“He’s the best in the world, he never lets up,” said Barca coach Ronald Koeman. “If he lowers his concentration you never notice. Hopefully he stays for many more years.”
After beating Athletic Bilbao to lift the Copa del Rey last weekend, Barca are now in the hunt for the double as Messi reached 25 league goals for the season.
Getafe are not safe yet, four points the gap above the bottom three.
Messi got to work in the eighth, slid through by a piercing pass by Sergio Busquets and sending a shot into the far top corner, despite a touch by Getafe goalkeeper David Soria.
Yet Getafe were level four minutes later as Angel met Marc Cucurella’s cross and the ball cannoned off the unsuspecting Clement Lenglet and flew in.
Another own-goal restored Barca’s lead, this one more avoidable, with Sofian Chakla failing to spot Soria coming out before passing the ball beyond the goalkeeper and into his own net.
The game looked secure when Messi made it three. Lenglet’s looping header gave him the chance to volley left-footed against the far post but the ball arrowed back to the striker, who finished from the angle with his right.
Getafe teed up a nervy last 20 minutes when Ronald Araujo, on as a substitute, trod on the ankle of Enes Unal, who scored the penalty to give the visitors hope.
But Barcelona pulled away with two late goals, Araujo heading in a corner from Messi, who then passed up the chance to score his third by giving Griezmann his first.
Real Sociedad regained fifth place by coming from behind to defeat Celta Vigo 2-1 at home, while Roberto Soldado scored twice as eighth-placed Granada routed last-placed Eibar 4-1.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2021