Luis Enrique savoured a morale-boosting victory over Atletico Madrid as Lionel Messi’s late winner at the Vicente Calderon kept Barcelona well in the LaLiga title picture.
Just 12 days on from the 4-0 Champions League hammering at Paris St Germain, Barca defeated one of their rivals for the domestic crown 2-1 thanks to Messi’s 86th-minute strike, which came after Diego Godin headed in a reply to Rafinha’s scruffy opener.
It was hardly a vintage Barca performance as Messi got them out of jail for the second-straight weekend following his 90th-minute penalty in the home win over Leganes, but the Catalans boss saw the importance in a success over Atleti, who they remain unbeaten against in their past 20 domestic fixtures.
“It’s a victory that really raises our morale,” Luis Enrique told Barcelona’s official website.
“It was a hard-earned win. In the first half their pressure and the field conditions made it tough, but in the second half their pressure didn’t have the same effect and our confidence grew, giving us more chances.
“I’m happy for the win and for the team because it strengthens the players’ morale.
“You could see the good attitudes of the players all game long, they were all united, and in the end, we were rewarded, and deservedly so. You have to congratulate them.”
With Real Madrid, Sevilla, Barca and Atleti all in the title mix, this was a result which leaves the latter with plenty to do if they are to end the season as champions.
“I’m satisfied with a win against a direct opponent, but we have a long way to go,” Luis Enrique warned.
“It is important to climb away from Atletico and get closer to where we want to be. We are keeping the pressure on.”
For the hosts, it was a familiar tale against Barca and Messi, who now has 22 league goals in as many games against them.
Both goals were conceded in disappointing fashion for Atletico manager Diego Simeone after Rafinha capitalised on two blocked attempts, while Messi was somehow left all alone late on to finish after the home side had failed to clear a free-kick he had taken.
“The match would be lost by the team that made an error,” Simeone admitted in his press conference.
“It’s possible that we didn’t clear in the best way a play with many rebounds in the box. They took advantage of this situation.”