Skip to content

Messi, Falcao score as Barcelona beats Atlético

Dec 16, 2012, 5:08 PM EDT

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-ATLETICO Getty Images

Three early chances asked you to believe this game could be different. An early header that found woodwork. A narrow miss wide after blowing past Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. Then the goal, a turnover by Lionel Messi leading to Radamel Falcao’s opener. If the world’s best No. 9 was going to get chances every 10 minutes, Barcelona would surely fall at Camp Nou.

That didn’t happen. Finally putting his side ahead in the 31st minute, Falcao’s 17th goal of the season served as a wakeup call. Five minutes later, a golazo from Adriano pulled the league leaders even. Sergio Busquets gave them the lead before half, a position Barcelona never relinquished. The Catalans went on to a 4-1 victory, completing their best 16-game start to a Primera Division season (46 points).

In many ways, it was typical Barcelona. From the opening kickoff they dominated possession, with their high defensive line tempting (and eventually, conceding) a goal. For one of the few times this season, Tito Vilanova had a full complement of defenders at his disposal (Jordi Alba starting with Pique, Puyol, and Adriano). Going forward it took them time to break down a well-organized Atlético defense, though once they did, their dominance of possession helped see out the match.

The one thing that wasn’t typical was Messi. At least, for 45 minutes, the world’s best player wasn’t his normal sel. Stripped of the ball by Diego Costa just inside Atlético’s half ahead of the first goal, Messi was arguably a weakness over the first half. Without his mistake, Victor Valdes might have carried a clean sheet into intermission.

Messi got some redemption early in the second half. In the 57th minute, a ball played to him just outside the Atlético area allowed him to dribble onto his left and beat Thibault Courtois from 19 yards out. Falcao may have taken the first 45 minutes, but Messi wasn’t going to allow their duel to reach full time without being heard. In the 88th minute, when Messi stripped Diego Godin before chipping Courtois, the world’s best player had the final word.

But despite running his league goal total to 25 on the season, this wasn’t vintage Messi. Controlling a 4-on-3 counter in the second half, Messi uncharacteristically overhit a ball for Alexei Sanchez coming in from the left, Courtois about to diffuse the opportunity with an easy scoop of the errant pass. On a typical day, Messi generates a chance on that break, be it for himself or others.

In that sense, Sunday’s result was as informative for what it wasn’t as what it was. Though a extremely entertaining first half faded into Barcelona’s typical siege, Spain’s leaders weren’t at their best. Yet against the second-best team in their league — a team whose form would have them competing for any other title in the world — Barça cruised. At the final whistle, they had a nine-point league lead on Atlético. The gap between them and Real Madrid’s 13.

Perhaps it’s right the match was overshadowed by the Messi-Falcao matchup. Though it featured the two best teams in Spain, the gap between the sides is too great to consider them peers. Messi, for so long considered the best player in the world, is much closer to Falcao in quality than Barcelona is to Atlético Madrid, a fact that speaks to the qualities of both Falcao and the team that beat him.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Man United target Nathaniel Clyne won’t decide his future until summer

    Mar 29, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC

    Are Saints about to lose another young star to one of the Premier League’s “big five?” We’ll find out this summer.

  2. Harry Kane will play for England U-21s at 2015 European Championship

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:52 PM EDT

    Harry Kane, England Harry Kane, England

    Kane will join England’s U-21 squad for this summer’s European Championship.

  3. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 2-1 Toronto FC

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT

    Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake

    No fun for 70 minutes, and then the final 20 happened. TFC’s criminally disallowed goal was the only difference in this one.

  4. Wayne Rooney: Teams are once again fearful of an “aggressive” England

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT

    Wayne Rooney, England Wayne Rooney, England

    There’s a real reason, other than “easy schedule,” for England’s improved performances since the World Cup.

  5. Report: Raheem Sterling will turn down any Liverpool contract offer until end of season

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Raheem Sterling, England Raheem Sterling, England

    Sterling isn’t interested in negotiating a new deal until the summer — even if it’s for $270,000/week — and a few reassurances are made.

  6. Luis Suarez says if he comes back to England, it would only be with Liverpool

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT

    Suarez Getty Images

    Luis Suarez was candid as ever after Gerrard’s charity match, and he opened up the possibility of a Premier League return down the road.

  7. WATCH: Thierry Henry displays silky move at Gerrard charity match

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    Henry Getty Images

    Thierry Henry showed off his sparkling passing skills at Steven Gerrard’s testimonial.

  8. Aron Johannsson replaced on USMNT roster by Jordan Morris due to toe infection

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:43 AM EDT

    Morris Getty Images

    The United States loses one of their goalscorers from Friday’s friendly, but now it’s a youngster’s turn to make a statement.

  9. Southampton posts first profit since administration

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT

    Southampton Getty Images

    A whopping turnaround, led by owner Katharina Liebherr, has taken place at St. Mary’s and the financial evidence is there.

  10. Belgium coach says Januzaj must earn his spot back at Manchester United

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    JanuzajWilmots Getty Images

    If Adnan Januzaj wants to make a return to the Belgium squad, he must focus on earning playing time at his club first.

  11. Report: Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner set to sell team to UK group

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:13 AM EDT

    Lerner Getty Images

    An agreement has reportedly been reached between the current American owner and a domestic ownership group.

  12. Gareth Bale fires back at club critics after Wales success

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:34 AM EDT

    Bale Getty Images

    Gareth Bale knows what people are saying about his recent play at Real Madrid, but he’s not listening.

  13. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:41 PM EDT

    Zach Loyd, FC Dallas Zach Loyd, FC Dallas

    A disappointing result for FCD, given Seattle’s lack of Dempsey and Martins, but a great one considering their early red card.

  14. MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT

    Vancouver Whitecaps Vancouver Whitecaps

    Three more points for Vancouver, who win it late on Robert Earnshaw’s Whitecaps debut. He scores for everyone.

  15. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 1-0 LA Galaxy

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    D.C. United Getty Images

    It was the late, late, late show at RFK Stadium, and despite being thoroughly outplayed, D.C. United go home with three points.

  16. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT

    Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City

    Sporting KC get their first victory of the season, while NYCFC suffer their first defeat of the year — and history.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment