In recent years our home games against the Catalans had been spectacular matches with plenty of opportunities for either side, but this year’s edition of Atlético – Barcelona was a one-sided affair.
It was down to David de Gea that Barcelona didn’t score more goals, while Atlético failed to worry his Barça counterpart Victor Valdés.
Atleti did well to pressure Barcelona’s players wherever the ball was, but it was obvious that the visitors were more focused in the opening stages of the game.
Within the first three minutes Raúl García twice lost the ball in a dangerous position, and when he gave it away again in the 13th minute it led to Barcelona’s opening goal.
Lionel Messi put David Villa through with a majestic pass. Villa’s strike hit the post, but Pedro picked up the loose ball and delivered it straight to Messi, who easily slotted it past De Gea.
In the 25th minute Atleti were finally able to escape from Barcelona’s pressure, with Simão and Agüero combining well in Barça’s half. Their move led to a corner, which was headed in by Raúl García; Atlético’s first attempt on goal. Victor Valdés, who hadn’t had anything to do until that moment, was left red-faced as he should have done much better from the corner.
But Atleti couldn’t enjoy their equaliser for very long. Diego Godín entirely misjudged a Messi corner a short time later, letting Gerard Piqué control the ball on his chest and smash it in the far corner of the net.
Atlético only came close to Valdés’ goal from the many freekicks Reyes won, and one of those almost led to a goal when Ujfalusi got his head onto the ball, but Valdés comfortably caught it.
At the other end David Villa could have handed Pedro the third goal on a platter just before half time, but his cross wasn’t accurate enough.
Quique Sánchez Flores had decided to start with Domínguez as left-back, Raúl García in midfield and Agüero up top, but none of his decisions seemed to work out today. In the second half all three were substituted, but Atleti weren’t able to turn the score around.
From the 49th minute on, De Gea had to make three important saves in as many minutes. The young goalkeeper was the sole reason we didn’t concede more goals in the second half.
Xavi, Villa and Pedro all watched agonisingly on as De Gea stopped all of their shots from distance, while he also kept Villa and Messi from scoring when they came at him one-on-one later in the match.
Reyes, our best outfield man today, was the only player causing Barcelona’s defence any trouble. He hit the side netting ten minutes before full time and Valdés again got in his way a few minutes later. With Agüero unfit and Forlán invisible, we were toothless all match.
Barcelona’s superiority led to frustration among our players, and the referee not giving in to any of our penalty claims didn’t help either. In injury time Tomas Ujfalusi took out his frustration on Lionel Messi’s ankle and was sent marching with a straight red card, which means he’ll miss our next game against Valencia on Wednesday.
Line-up: De Gea; Ujfalusi, Perea, Godín, Domínguez; Reyes, Assunção, Raúl García, Simão; Forlán and Agüero.
Subs: Diego Costa (“52), Tiago (“65), Antonio López (“69)
Goals: 0-1 Messi; 1-1 Raúl García; 1-2 Piqué