Lionel Messi was captured giving his Barcelona teammates a key message in the tunnel at half-time of Monday’s crucial 1-0 La Liga win over Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou.
The game was still level at 0-0 at the break with Messi making it clear to the Barcelona players that the team had to step up their efforts if there were to take home all three points, as reported by Mundo Deportivo.
He said, “We have to step it up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm. Without going crazy, but we have to put more pace. If we don’t, it will get complicated. We have to win this however we can. Only one goal, only one goal.”
Barca had to wait until the 89th minute to break the deadlock. Ousmane Dembele rifled home from close range to secure the victory that sees Barca cut the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid to just one point with nine games left to play.
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Messi Unhappy With Officials
Messi also revealed his frustration with referee Jaime Latre during the break. The captain went into the game knowing that he would pick up an automatic one-game ban for yellow card accumulation if he was booked.
The Barcelona captain did avoid a yellow card but felt the referee was trying to his best to sanction him, according to Mundo Deportivo. He told club delegate Carles Naval, “He’s looking forward to giving me a card… bufff.. incredible.”
Latre was in the spotlight during the 90 minutes. He opted not to award Real Valladolid a penalty after the ball appeared to brush Jordi Alba’s fingers in the penalty area, leading to huge protests from the visitors.
The referee also sent off Real Valladolid midfielder Oscar Plano in the 79th minute for a cynical foul on Dembele, leaving the visitors to play out the final 10 minutes of the game with a man down.
Vital Win For Barcelona
Monday’s win was hardly Barcelona’s best performance of the season, but the result was crucial and maintains the club’s hopes of winning La Liga. Ronald Koeman and his players know they will be crowned champions if they win their last nine games of the season as they still have to play Atletico again in May.
Barca’s win extends the team’s unbeaten run to 19 games ahead of Saturday’s crucial clash against Real Madrid on Saturday. Los Blancos are also still in title contention and sit third, just two points behind their fierce rivals.
Indeed it could be a key weekend in the title race. Leaders Atletico will be aiming to bounce back from defeat to Sevilla but face a tricky test against Real Betis. The Rojiblancos will be without top scorer Luis Suarez due to suspension and face a team in good form with just one defeat in their last seven outings.
Meanwhile, Barca will be head into El Clasico on a high, thanks to Dembele’s last-gasp winner. The Catalans may just have the edge too as the team now has the week to prepare for the match, while Real Madrid is in Champions League action on Tuesday against Liverpool.