0618 GMT February 17, 2020
Barca rode its luck in the first half, seeing the host hit the post and bring two fine saves out of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, FourFourTwo magazine reported.
But the Catalans punished Atletico’s failure to take its chances five minutes from time courtesy of Messi, who played a neat one-two with Luis Suarez on the edge of the area before coolly side-footing into the bottom corner.
The Argentinian’s first league strike at the Wanda Metropolitano took Barca top of La Liga on goal difference.
“When matches are tight and [your opponents] are strong, having Messi is always a great advantage,” Valverde told Marca.
“You have to watch matches from your team’s point of view. We suffered at the start and we got the three points, we won’t think about the bad now.”
Ter Stegen produced a stunning save to ensure Barca stayed level, somehow using his left thigh to keep out Mario Hermoso’s close-range volley at the back post from Joao Felix’s exquisite cross.
Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak was also in fine form, keeping Messi at bay until the 85th minute.
“There were two goalkeepers on the pitch who can perform miracles and they often make great saves,” said Valverde, who confirmed Gerard Pique’s knock was not serious.
The defeat was Atletico’s first in 11 league games, but it has won only three of them and sits six points off the pace.
“We played well again, and the players are putting in great work,” boss Diego Simeone told the club’s official website.
“We had chances in the first half and controlled Barcelona. In the second half the game progressively went their way, although we also had chances to score.
“The results aren’t going our way, we have to work hard.”