Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 September 2020

Lionel Messi scores 700th goal with Panenka penalty but Barcelona's La Liga hopes suffer huge blow

Stunning spot kick from the Argentine genius but Barca draw clears the way for Real Madrid

Lionel Messi scored his 700th career goal with a Panenka penalty before Atletico Madrid hit back to draw 2-2 and deal Barcelona’s La Liga hopes a major blow.

Barca's all-time top scorer hit the landmark goal for club and country by gently chipping the ball into the net as Jan Oblak dived the wrong way.

But Barcelona’s third draw in four matches left them in second place, one point behind leaders Real Madrid. Real host Getafe on Thursday with a chance to open up a four-point lead with five games remaining.

While Real have won five of five since the resumption after a three-month stoppage, Barcelona have only won three of six.

The pressure is increasing on coach Quique Setien, who took over in mid-season with the task of rekindling the attacking spirit.

“It is too bad because we keep dropping points and getting further and further away from the title,” Setien said. “But we have to keep fighting.”

Barcelona struck first in the 11th minute when Atletico striker Diego Costa inadvertently redirected a corner by Messi into his own net.

Costa’s night got worse soon after when his penalty was blocked by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Atletico, however, were allowed to retake when a video review decided the Barcelona goalkeeper had moved off his line too early.

Saul Niguez stepped up instead of Costa and converted to level the score.

Messi restored the host’s lead by coolly chipping past Oblak. The goal was Messi’s 630th for Barca to go with 70 for Argentina. It was also his league-leading 22nd of the season.

Atletico responded again through the speed of forward Yannick Carrasco, who was tripped by Nelson Semedo and gave Saul another penalty. Ter Stegen got a hand to his spot kick but not enough to keep it out.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico remain undefeated in the six matches since La Liga resumed, and stay in third place.

Simeone left forward Joao Felix on the bench until the second half in favour of the in-form midfielder Marcos Llorente.

Llorente led the attack early on but Carrasco, with his speed on the left, proved to be the visitors’ biggest threat. Twice the Belgian burst into the box on a counterattack and was taken down by late tackles from Arturo Vidal and Semedo.

“Carrasco came back from the stoppage in better shape, and is now back to playing at his best level,” Simeone said.

Setien chose to leave Messi and Luis Suarez up front and added an extra midfielder in youngster Riqui Puig, keeping Antoine Griezmann and Ansu Fati on the bench.

“All the games that are left are super important and all points we drop hurt our chances,” the 20-year-old Puig said.

“The other day the same thing happened, they were able to fight back in games we were winning thanks to our silly mistake or lapses in concentration.”

Updated: July 1, 2020 08:15 AM

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