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Lionel Messi's 600th Goal Lifts Barcelona to 1-0 La Liga Win vs. Atletico Madrid

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMarch 4, 2018

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 04:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona scores the opening goal during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou on March 4, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Lionel Messi struck his 600th career goal for club and country as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 at the Camp Nou on Sunday to move eight points clear at the top of La Liga. 

The Argentine's inch-perfect free-kick scorched Barca into the lead midway through the first half, and it proved to be enough to clinch the three points after Atletico struggled to trouble the hosts' goal for most of the clash.

Atletico failed to take advantage of Barcelona's three draws in their previous five league outings and may have missed their last chance to reel in the leaders with 11 matches in he campaign remaining.

Philippe Coutinho started on the left of Barca's midfield while Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique resumed their centre-back partnership, looking to stop an Atleti attacking duo of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa.

Costa had scored two and assisted two in three league outings prior to his first match against Barcelona since rejoining Atleti, but ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan summarised a forgettable opening half for the visiting striker:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Diego Costa just completed four passes in first 38 mins.

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Barcelona were unbeaten in their previous 15 meetings with Los Rojiblancos in La Liga before Sunday's clash, their best-ever run against Atletico, and early on all signs pointed to that record staying intact.

The home outfit did all the first-half pressing but were struggling to carve open Atleti's last line of defence, so it was fitting that it required a piece of dead-ball brilliance to separate the two teams after 26 minutes.

Thomas Partey was at fault for gifting Barca the free-kick that gave the hosts their breakthrough, sliding in close to his own box and giving referee Jesus Gil Manzano little choice but to make the call.

Messi needed no second invitation and rifled the set piece directly into the top left of Jan Oblak's goal, and ESPN Stats & Info chronicled that sumptuous effort as yet another landmark strike for the Blaugrana talisman:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

He's done it! That is 600 career goals for club and country for Lionel Messi. Messi has scored his 1st, 100th, 200th, 300th, 400th, 500th and 600th career goals all with Barcelona. https://t.co/Mrd8cAV43C

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker jested Messi's magic is almost such a common sight these days that it's become repetitive:

Gary Lineker @GaryLineker

Messi has just struck another 25 yard freekick into the top corner. He’s so predictable.

Not long before the break, Andres Iniesta left the field with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Andre Gomes. Barca did most of the testing at goal through the likes of Coutinho and Luis Suarez in a first half they controlled.

Atletico were more competitive in the second half, with full-backs Filipe Luis and Sime Vrsaljko encouraged to push further up the pitch, although their strike force still remained far from the action.

But the travelling team eventually found some attacking momentum through manager Diego Simeone's invention. Vrsaljko came off for Angel Correa, with Thomas switching to right-back, while Kevin Gameiro joined the forward line as Gabi took his leave.

There was drama for both teams near the climax as Suarez was the first to have a goal ruled out after being flagged offside, and Rik Sharma of Catalan newspaper Sport illustrated the grief of being an official in such situations:

Rik Sharma @riksharma_

If I were a linesman I'd legitimately have nightmares about Suarez turning to me, eyes full of fury, mouth snarling

Then came Gameiro's turn in the dying minutes of the match, powering in the ball from Costa's knock-down only to see the other linesman's flag raised, stripping Atleti of what they thought was their equaliser.

Despite ending in the ascendancy, Atletico left the Camp Nou empty-handed with questions over whether the result effectively ends the title race, although Barca still have to face Real Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia in the league before season's end.

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