Barcelona: With Barcelona's faint Spanish league title hopes fading, Lionel Messi scored from a crafty free kick late on to give Barcelona a 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid on Sunday and keep his team in the chase.

Despite its first away victory in three games, Barcelona is still 10 points adrift of leader Real Madrid thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's superb back-heeled goal in his team's hard-fought 1-0 win at Rayo Vallecano earlier.

After Radamel Falcao had cancelled out Dani Alves' opener for Barcelona, Messi caught Atletico's players unawares while they were trying to form a defensive wall by looping a perfectly placed shot into the far side of the net in the 81st minute.

Messi's own bit of brilliance took his league tally to 28 goals_ one behind Ronaldo's 29.

Barcelona dominated possession from the start at Vicente Calderon stadium, patiently probing for a way through an Atletico team on a nine-game unbeaten streak since the arrival of coach Diego Simeone.

Xavi Hernandez, on his return to Barcelona's starting 11, came close in the second minute while Messi had a goal disallowed shortly after for using his hand to control the ball. It was the Argentina forward's fifth yellow card, meaning he will miss next week's match against Sporting Gijon.

Barcelona finally broke through with Dani Alves' goal in the 36th. Messi set up the goal by drawing in a swarm of defenders at the top of the box before laying the ball off, allowing Cesc Fabregas to cross to the far post for the Brazil right back to fire home.

Atletico pressed for an equalizer after halftime. That came four minutes later when striker Falcao knocked in a poor clearance by Sergio Busquets for his 15th goal of the league campaign.

With the score level, the game turned into an up-and-down contest marred by fouls that favoured Atletico's more aggressive style.

The hosts looked set to keep Barcelona winless in three straight away games until Messi saw the chance for his 43rd goal of the season in all competitions. The three-time Ballon D'Or winner executed the long-range strike from the left to perfection, his shot leaving goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to look on helplessly.

(Agencies)