BARCELONA, March 4 (Reuters) - Barcelona beat nearest challengers Atletico Madrid 1-0 thanks to an outstanding free kick from Lionel Messi on Sunday to move eight points clear at the top of La Liga and closer to a 25th Spanish title.
Barca’s all-time top scorer Messi wrapped his left foot around the ball to send it flying over the wall and inside the top corner in the 26th minute to register his 600th career goal.
Atletico, who clinched the 2014 title at the Nou Camp but have not won there since 2016, could have cut the gap on Barca to two points with a victory but coach Diego Simeone opted for a typically conservative approach.
Thomas Partey’s wayward strike from distance was Atletico’s only threat and although Simeone made two attacking substitutions, his side could not force Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into making a save. Kevin Gameiro had a goal correctly ruled out for offside.
Barca lead the standings on 69 points after 27 games, Atletico have 61 and champions Real Madrid 54. (Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)