Lionel Messi played the role of super-sub at the Vicente Calderon as his goal gave Barcelona a 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Saturday.
The Argentine started on the substitutes’ bench for La Blaugrana, having only managed one training session in preparation for the game due to the international break and birth of his son Mateo on Thursday.
Consequently, Rafinha was called up to fill the No 10s considerable void on the right wing, while an injury to Claudio Bravo saw Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.
Atleti, meanwhile, made just the one change from last week’s 3-0 victory over Sevilla, with Filipe Luis replacing Jesus Gamez at left-back.
In attack, Fernando Torres continued to lead the line ahead of Jackson Martinez, who was named as a sub.
Diego Simeone had yet to beat Barca in four years at the helm of Los Colchoneros, and Torres almost went some way towards ending that hoodoo when he blazed a one-on-one with Ter Stegen just over from a tight angle.
At the other end, Luis Suarez came within a whisker of moving the Catalans ahead with a flying volley from Ivan Rakitic’s corner at the far post, which beat Jan Oblak but cannoned off the crossbar.
Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz was considered a somewhat-controversial choice prior to kick-off, and he lived up to his billing with a couple of decisions in Atleti’s favour, Jose Maria Gimenez involved in both.
The defender first escaped the official’s wrath with a trailing handball to block Rakitic’s cross early on, before he appeared to push a rebound away from Neymar after he had shut down the Brazilian’s initial strike.
However, the action was sandwiched by another injury to Thomas Vermaelen, who picked up a knock on 28 minutes and had to leave the field of play.
Atleti started the second half most positively and deservedly broke the deadlock through Fernando Torres, who read Tiago Mendes’ visionary through ball and sent an angled finish into the bottom-left corner of Ter Stegen’s net, kissing the post en route to its destination.
However, Barca equalised just four minutes later through Neymar, the Brazilian spectacularly bending a free kick home from around 30 yards out.
The Catalans would dominate the latter stages, and despite Suarez’s horrible miskick from point-blank range, it was left to Messi to come off the bench and grab the winner with the outside of his boot.
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona
Torres 51 (AM) Neymar 55, Messi 77 (B)
Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Filipe; Oliver Torres (Ferreira 60), Gabi (Vietto 81), Tiago, Koke; Griezmann, Fernando Torres (Jackson 62)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi, Mascherano, Vermaelen (Mathieu 28), Alba; Busquets, Rakitic (Messi 60), Iniesta; Neymar, Suarez, Rafinha
Referee: Mateu Lahoz