Messi Penalty Rescues Subdued Barca

Lionel Messi scored a penalty and missed another as La Liga leaders Barcelona ground out an unconvincing 1-0 win over Real Valladolid Saturday.

Messi’s fitness was again in the spotlight on Saturday after a niggling thigh strain in recent weeks, but he completed the full 90 minutes at the Camp Nou and hit the 30-goal mark at Barcelona for the 11th straight season.

The Argentine coolly dispatched a spot-kick just before halftime, drilling beyond the reach of Jordi Masip after Gerard Pique was bundled to the ground by Valladolid midfielder Michel.

Masip brilliantly tipped over a Messi volley soon after the interval and Luis Suarez wasted a huge opportunity to double the lead shortly after replacing Kevin-Prince Boateng with an hour gone.

Messi found himself booked for dissent after an apparent foul on him went unpunished, and he then blew the chance to kill off Valladolid when Masip kept out his second penalty of the night – awarded following a trip on Philippe Coutinho.

The excellent Masip alertly gathered Messi’s follow-up header and again denied Suarez late on as Barca pulled seven points clear of Atletico ahead of their trip to Lyon in the Champions League.

Earlier, Antoine Griezmann surpassed Fernando Torres with his 130th goal for Atletico Madrid after scoring a second-half winner to secure a 1-0 victory at neighbours Rayo Vallecano.

The French forward surpassed Torres for fifth all-time on the Atletico goalscoring charts as they shook off two successive defeats, including last week’s 3-1 loss at home to Real Madrid.

Griezmann struck for the ninth time in his last 11 outings, forcing home from six yards on 74 minutes after Alvaro Morata laid off a high, looping ball inside the area.

Real Madrid, two points behind Atletico in third, could move back into second and to within six points of Barca when they host Girona on Sunday.

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