Luis Suárez scored two second half goals after Fernando Torres picked up a goal and two yellow cards in just ten minutes writing the latest chapter in what is becoming a heated rivalry between Atleti and Barcelona.
Barcelona attacked early, out possessing Atleti and controlling the ball almost from the outset. However, the rojiblancos were fine to sit back and play the counter attack, a strategy that has worked several times this season.
Messi had the first true chance of the game, sending a volley wide off a Jordi Alba cross and Neymar’s header continued to make Atletico nervous in the first 20 minutes.
Fernando Torres struck first in the 25th, receiving one of Koke’s trademark passes in the middle of the box and putting it through Ter Stegen’s legs and into the back of the net.
Just four minutes later, Torres earned the first of eight yellow cards for Atlético, tripping Neymar near the middle of the pitch.
El Niño created a great chance for Griezmann, who fired a solid ground shot that Ter Stegen just sent wide for a corner.
But just like that, Atlético’s hero was done as he violently knocked Busquets off the ball and received a yellow. The Barca veteran embellished the challenge a bit, but Torres should have known better than to take such a risk when he was already in the book.
Barcelona saw blood in the water and began to bring on the attack, putting cross after cross into the box. Diego Godín and Jan Oblak stopped most of these chances, as Atleti totaled seven blocked shots and three saves on the night.
However, Barcelona kept fighting and finally found the back of the net in the 63rd. Jordi Alba’s short cross found Suarez right in front of goal and the veteran Uruguayan found the back of the net for a 1-1 draw.
Just nine minutes later, Dani Alves found Suarez for a header and Barca went up 2-1. Suarez’s two goals were a long time coming as Barca outshot Atleti 21-7 and controlled possession 75-25.
Late in the game, Diego Simeone tried to limit the damage, substituting defense for offense and saving Carrasco, Griezmann and Saúl for the second leg.
Torres’ red certainly was not the only skirmish between these two teams. After exchanging words througout the game, Lucas gave Neymar a hard tackle and received a yellow. Suarez gave Luis a hard push in Atleti’s box, but did not receive punishment from the referee.
Despite the two allowed goals, the defense deserves credit for holding on as long as they did. Lucas picked up right where he left off against Betis. Filipe and Juanfran had a number of game-saving tackles. Gabi, Godin and Augusto headed out cross after cross.
Of course, Atletico would have hoped for a better attacking display. The absence of Torres combined with unrelenting pressure from the Barca defense created a panic for Saul, Griezmann and Carassco. The trio were rarely heard from after the sending off and their recovery will set the tone when the fixture moves to the Calderón on Wednesday.
Emotions will certainly be important in the home fixture. Atlético will miss Torres and Gabi, Saúl, Godin, and Juanfran were the only colchoneros to avoid the book for a full 90 minutes.
Atleti has a trip to Espanyol on Saturday at 18:15 before returning to the Calderón to face Barcelona on Wednesday, April 13.