Messi show sinks Atletico

Barcelona star says he is not going anywhere after scripting a fine victory

Messi show sinks Atletico

Barcelona stayed hard on the heels of La Liga leaders Real Madrid when Lionel Messi scored one goal, created two and conceded a penalty in a 3-1 win at home to champions Atletico Madrid on Sunday that eased pressure on under-fire coach Luis Enrique.

Looking to bounce back after last weekend's defeat at Real Sociedad, Barca started strongly and took the lead in the 12th minute when Messi's trickery opened up the Atletico defence and the ball fell to Neymar to stab home.

Messi created a second for the dominant home side on 35 minutes when he raced into the middle from the right wing and slipped the ball through for Luis Suarez to stroke the ball past Atletico goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya.

Atletico hauled themselves back into the match when Jesus Gamez went down under a challenge from Messi in the penalty area in the 56th minute and Mario Mandzukic blasted his spot kick past Claudio Bravo.

It was the first time Messi has conceded a penalty for club or country in his 10-year professional career.

The goal lifted the visitors but Barca made the game safe three minutes from time when Messi took advantage of a lucky deflection to fire in from close range, the Argentina captain's 16th goal of the campaign.

Real, who have a game in hand over their closest rivals, have 42 points from 17 matches following Saturday's 3-0 win at home to Espanyol, with Barca on 41 in second place and Atletico third on 38.

Not going to England
Messi later denied he asked for Enrique to be replaced or that he is seeking an exit from his boyhood club and a move to England. The Argentina and Barca captain was responding for the first time to widespread reports of a falling out with Enrique.

Messi's apparent dissatisfaction with the coach's management style and tactics was said to have prompted talks with Chelsea and Manchester City on a possible move to the English Premier League, while Catalan television claimed Messi had demanded Luis Enrique be sacked. "I haven't asked for anything to stay here because I have never wanted to go anywhere else," Messi told Barca's TV channel after Sunday's 3-1 La Liga win over champions Atletico Madrid.

"I have also heard that my father has spoken to Chelsea and City but it's all lies," added the 27-year-old. "There have been stories that I had bad relationships with (Pep) Guardiola, (Samuel) Eto'o, (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic and Bojan (Krkic), that I have got rid of people.

"That is in no way true. I never asked for them to get rid of the coach or anyone else. There is no rivalry between Luis Enrique and me."

Messi's status as a hero to Barca fans for his key role in their most successful era makes him a powerful figure at the club but he dismissed claims that he has influence over important decisions.

"I am tired of hearing things about me," Messi said. "They say that I run the club when I am just another player. I don't make those decisions, nor have I asked them to be made.
"It hurts because (the stories) have come from the Barcelona-based media and not from Madrid.

"There are people who want to damage the club and it's important that now more than ever we are united because there are important things ahead."

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