Barcelona striker Luis Suarez tries to keep Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin at bay on Saturday night. Photo: Francisco Seco/AP

MADRID – Barcelona forward Luis Suarez preserved his side’s unbeaten record by scoring a late header to snatch a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid as the La Liga leaders’ perfect start to the season ended on Saturday.

Saul Niguez gave Atletico the lead in the 21st minute with a thumping low drive into the bottom corner, beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen after the German goalkeeper had twice thwarted Antoine Griezmann.

Lionel Messi had threatened to give Barca the lead less than 30 seconds into the game at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, which was packed with Spain flags as tensions from Catalonia’s banned referendum on independence continued to be felt.

The Argentine ripped through Atletico’s defence, only to see his shot squirm wide, but the home side managed the first half better, soaking up Barca’s pressure and carefully plotting their counter-attacks.

The visitors were much improved after the break, however.

Messi clanged the crossbar from a free kick and inexplicably missed the target from close range, while Suarez was denied by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

The Uruguayan goaded the home fans after deservedly pulling Barca level in the 82nd minute, putting his finger to his lips and cupping his ears in response to critics of his lacklustre start to the season.

Barca top the standings with 22 points, but their lead over Real Madrid was cut to five as Zinedine Zidane’s side moved above Atletico, who are third on 16, after winning 2-1 at Getafe earlier on Saturday.