Ronald Koeman has hailed Lionel Messi for his “decisive” contribution in the final third while insisting Barcelona can still win La Liga.
Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 loss to Real Madrid gave Koeman’s side the opportunity to gain some ground on the leaders after a poor start to the season, and they just about got the job done againstPaco Lopez’s well-organised outfit.
Barca dominated possession throughout the match and eventually got the goal that their constant pressure deserved in the 76th minute, with Messi firing home an unstoppable strike after being played through by Frenkie de Jong.
The Argentine’s sublime effort marked his fifth goal in 11 La Liga appearances this term , with his output in the final third not quite as high as in previous seasons amid mounting speculation over his future.
Koeman defended Messi’s modest record in front of goal post-match, though, highlightingthe fact that the six-time Ballon d’Or winner still manages to make a huge impact despite being targeted as the danger man by the opposition before every match.
“You have to realise they don’t make it easy for him,”the Barca boss said of the club captain after the 1-0 victory over Levante. “He’s marked by lots of players. But he’s shown he’s decisive.”
Barca are now sitting eighth in the Liga standings, nine points behind early pace-setters Real Sociedad and Atletico.
It is already beingsuggested that the Blaugrana are destined to miss out on the top-flight trophy for a second consecutive year, but Koeman still believes his team can stage a comeback if they add a clinical edge to their game.
“Of course we can win the title,”the 57-year-old told reporters. “If we improve and we have more confidence and we improve our effectiveness in front of goal, there’s a chance!
“There are still lots of games left remaining.”
Source : goal.com