Messi free kick gives Barcelona win v Atletico, extends lead

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi scored from a free kick for his third straight game as Barcelona beat second-place Atletico Madrid 1-0 Sunday to increase its lead at the top of the Spanish league to eight points.

Messi dipped a shot over the defense wall in the 26th minute to take his league-leading tally to 24 this season and 32 in all competitions.

It was Messi’s sixth goal from a free kick this season, and his third straight with successful free kicks against Girona and Las Palmas.

Barcelona remained undefeated after 27 rounds and dealt Atletico just its second defeat in the league this season.

Ernesto Valverde’s side now has a comfortable lead with 11 rounds left and Barcelona can focus on its round-of-16 second leg match in the Champions League against Chelsea on March 14. Barcelona drew 1-1 in the away leg at Stamford Bridge.

It was not all positive for the Catalan leaders, however, with midfielder Andres Iniesta substituted in the first half on Sunday due to a right-leg injury.

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