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Messi sends Barça eight clear


Barcelona took a huge leap towards the title, extending their lead to eight points with a 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Lionel Messi’s 24th-minute free kick proved the difference between the two sides, in a game that was fiercely contested but lacking in entertainment, two disallowed goals aside.

Philippe Coutinho started for the Catalans but Ousmane Dembele was benched against a full-strength Atleti, who could no longer call on Yannick Carrasco, Nicolas Gaitan and Miguel Angel Moya.

Ernesto Valverde had never beaten Los Rojiblancos in his managerial career, although Barca had not lost to Cholo’s men in the League for eight years.
The match had been billed as a potential title decider, although it was overshadowed by the sudden death of former Fiorentina and Italy defender Davide Astori, with both clubs tweeting their condolences.
Barca had Messi to thank for a point during their 1-1 draw with Las Palmas midweek, and the Argentine was at it again, delightfully curling a free kick into the top-right corner of Jan Oblak’s net.
Atleti tried to take the game to the Blaugrana in the second half, but despite their efforts, only the offside flag denied Luis Suarez from netting a rebound after Oblak had pushed away a corner.
The visitors thought they had equalised late on, when Kevin Gameiro knocked in Diego Costa’s saved header, but the Spaniard was just off in the build-up.
The result leaves Barca eight points clear of Atleti at the top of La Liga with only 11 rounds of the season remaining.