Messi’s follow-through on penalty leads to win

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Messi’s follow-through on penalty leads to win

Lionel Messi finished off his own missed penalty with five minutes left to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak blocked Messi’s initial spot kick, but he couldn’t recover in time to stop Messi from rushing forward to slam home the rebound and ignite the Camp Nou. Messi was set up to get the winner after Juanfran Torres fouled Sergio Busquets in the area.

“I still see the tie as 50-50, and we will go into the second leg aiming for a win,’’ Barcelona Coach Luis Enrique said.

Just two weeks ago he was under intense pressure following a loss and the firing of Barcelona’s sports director, but the coach has since been bolstered by a second victory over Atletico in 10 days following its 3-1 win here in the league. Atletico went undefeated in six meetings with Barcelona last season en route to winning the league and reaching the Champions League final.

The return leg at the Vicente Calderon will be next Wednesday, with the winner of this series advancing to meet either Villarreal or Getafe.

Villarreal beat Getafe 1-0 after midfielder Bruno Soriano also scored with five minutes to play when he curled home a free kick.

Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao drew 0-0 at Malaga.

Barcelona provided a flash of what it does best just four minutes after kickoff, when Messi and Dani Alves worked a mesmerizing one-two before Luis Suarez laid the off for Neymar to draw a one-handed save from Oblak.

Diego Simeone’s side then imposed a slower pace and got what it wanted: A number of set pieces that it usually excels at executing.

But Barcelona’s improvement in defense - it has conceded a league-low nine goals - was evident when Atletico failed to convert its five corner kicks into shots on goal, leaving it with Antoine Griezmann’s header over the top in the 35th minute for its only clear chance of the night.

“Barcelona has been working hard at defending,’’ Simeone said. “It was tough for us to get out and launch our attack, even though we had the game under control.

“We were closer than we were the other day at least as far as the result goes. But it won’t change how we play in the return leg.’’

Suarez had a golden opportunity a minute after Griezmann’s miss. But as so often in his first season at Barcelona, the Uruguay forward ended up falling to his knees and hiding his face in his hands after he sent Ivan Rakitic’s superb lobbed pass over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

In the second half, Barcelona was able to increase the tempo. Its only reward, though, was Andres Iniesta’s shot into Oblak’s arms in the 74th.

AP


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