Lionel Messi may not have scored but he still produced another Man of the Match performance for Barcelona against Real Valladolid on Monday night.
The Argentine has been in scintillating form throughout 2021. Indeed, Monday’s game was the first time Messi has failed to score or assist in a league match for the first time since December 16.
Ousmane Dembele netted the dramatic late winning goal to leave Barça just one point behind Atletico Madrid with nine fixtures left to play.
Atleti, who were 11 points clear at the top of the table a few months ago, have seen their lead dramatically reduced thanks largely to Messi’s performances.
However, Barça’s talismanic captain needed to be extremely careful on Monday evening. One yellow card would have ruled him out of Saturday’s Clasico against Real Madrid.
On four yellow cards for the season, Messi was walking a thin tight rope against Real Valladolid.
And the 33-year-old was angry with the match officials at half-time, accusing them of being “desperate” to book him during the opening 45 minutes.
Santiago Jaime was the referee, while Diego Barbero and Jorge Bueno were the assistants at Camp Nou.
As Messi made his way to the tunnel, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was quoted saying by Sport: "He's desperate to show me a card… ufff, incredible.”
Watch the video here…
But despite Messi’s fears that the ref wanted to book him, Messi did manage to complete the 90 minutes without receiving a yellow card.
Unfortunately for Real Madrid, who are two points behind Barcelona in third place, that means Messi will start in this weekend’s Clasico at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Messi was also filmed rallying his teammates ahead of the second half against Real Valladolid.
"We have to win this however we can," the South American said. "We have to step it up a gear, play with more rhythm."
His teammates responded by getting the job done in the 90th minute.
Dembele’s winning goal could prove to be a decisive moment in this season’s La Liga title race.News Now - Sport News