MADRID – Argentine soccer phenomenon Lionel Messi was the decisive force in helping Barcelona clinch its 23rd Spanish soccer Liga title, sinking the only goal of the away match against Atletico Madrid on Sunday at Vicente Calderon stadium.
Messi found the twine in the 65th minute off a lovely combination with Pedro Rodriguez – mathematically assuring Barça the title – and he has now racked up a total of 54 goals this season, 41 against La Liga opponents.
Atletico, meanwhile, suffered its second home defeat during the championship, and its first in its last 14 Liga matches. To come in third this season, it must now garner at least a tie in Granada in its last match.
The squad coached by Luis Enrique, which clinched the top spot in La Liga with a one game yet to go, can now zero in on the Champions League and Copa del Rey finals as it tries for all three titles.
“I think of everyone who has formed part of the club from the start of the season, and above all our fans,” said Luis Enrique. “This is our chance to make our fans happy, nothing more. It’s time to celebrate. Whether this is the start of a winning era, that’s just a cliche. We have two more finals now, and we will see. If we do win them it will be because our players will demonstrate they are the better side.”
Meanwhile, Atletico’s coach Diego Simeone praised Barcelona after the match, calling them “true champions,” saying the victory was “absolutely deserved” and emphasizing the “brilliance” of Messi in the victory.
The match was played before a full house of some 54,000 spectators.