Copa del Rey: Atlético 1 – 2 Barcelona

Barça weather the rojiblanco fightback to take a commanding first leg lead

Atleti undone by poor first half performance

Atleti undone by poor first half performance

Barcelona drew first blood in the race for the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday night, winning 2-1 against Atlético at the Vicente Calderón thanks to goals from Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi.

However, that doesn’t tell half the story, with an inspired second half performance from Atleti not enough to save the result despite Antoine Griezmann’s goal to reduce the arrears.

It was a real game of two halves, full of goalmouth action and played at the high intensity that we have been used to seeing from these two teams in recent meetings.

Simeone opted to partner Griezmann with Carrasco up front, playing Juanfran at right wing with Sime Vrsaljko behind him in defence.

It was a choice that didn’t last long though, the Croatian full-back taking the hit after a poor first half team performance that saw him withdrawn at half-time for Fernando Torres.

At that point, Barça were strolling towards the final with a two goal lead, Luis Suárez running through the rojiblanco backline to open the scoring before Messi fired home an excellent second.

It could’ve been more as well, Neymar unable to profit from his striker partners’ generosity as the front three were given the freedom of the Manzanares to create chances on the counter attack.

Fans were scratching their heads, wondering what had happened to the team that knocked the Blaugrana out of the Champions League last season, but were given a timely reminder after the break as Atleti came out a different team.

Heads could’ve easily dropped, but as soon as the whistle went for the second half it was Barça under the cosh, hanging on for dear life to what had been a comfortable lead.

Substitute Torres caused all sorts of problems, and linked up with Gabi to present the captain with what should’ve been a goal, if not for Jordi Alba’s last ditch challenge.

Koke then tested Cillessen with a long ranger, before Griezmann headed the home side back into the tie as he rose highest to convert Godín’s flick across for 2-1.

It was a goal that helped the team and fans find their belief again, and really should’ve been the first of a famous comeback if not for a combination of bad luck and fantastic, but rather fortunate goalkeeping.

Minutes after finding the net, Griezmann got onto the end of Filipe’s ball into the six-yard box, but somehow goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen managed to deny him with a point blanc saved just as the Calderón prepared to erupt.

The Frenchman continued to press forward and was also involved in defence, although perhaps a little too enthusiastically at times as he gave away a couple of free-kicks in dangerous positions.

Thankfully, the visitors couldn’t profit and allowed Atleti to continue coming at them, and that they did. Carrasco tried, Gameiro tried and Torres – most notably with a delightful backheel attempt – also came close, but the ball just wouldn’t go in.

At the other end, Neymar had the chance to kill the tie as the ball fell to him in space inside the box, but he skied the ball into the Fondo Sur behind the goal.

There was still time for Torres to go close again after Mascherano lost the ball in a good position, but he couldn’t find the target. Griezmann then saw a shot whistle just an inch or two past the post.

On another day it could’ve ended 5-5, but Barça it was who took their chances and will go into the second leg at the Camp Nou as strong favourites to progress to the final.

However, despite conceding two vital away goals, Atleti fans can feel a strange sense of satisfaction after seeing a level of performance that hasn’t been produced now for a good few months.

Whether we qualify or not, if the team can play like they did in the second half more often then there will be brighter times to come this season. We’re clearly still capable.

Unfortunately, the excellent Gabi will miss the second leg through suspension after picking up a late yellow card, but Neymar will also miss out for the same reason which is a boost.

The return takes place a week on Tuesday, with Atleti hosting Leganés in between on Saturday evening.

Player ratings: Moyá 6, Vrsaljko 5, Godín 6, Savic 5, Filipe 7, Juanfran 6, Gabi 8 (MOTM), Koke 7, Saúl 6, Griezmann 7, Carrasco 7. Subs: Torres 7, Gaitán 5, Gameiro 5.

  • Zinni DUDU

    After today match nobody should question that Torres needs to start ahead of Gameiro and needs to be our first-choice striker again. I think he can still play great second part of the season if he shows the performances like today. He is motivated by something special: The love he has for this club and for this stadion. Persons who are question his hierarchy shall burn in hell.

  • bongoflava gospel mixtapes

    Atletico Madrid requires a striker like Suarez never understood why you buy gameiro and even doesn’t impact the game . Savic is nowhere near gimenez defensively same as moya goalkeeping to oblak we should have went in the summer and buy higuain he was available

  • jodo

    Problem with Torres this season is, whether he’s playing well or not, is that he simply cannot get the ball into goal. There have been many games where he doesn’t even threaten to come close. I didn’t see today’s game but from what I read–he played well and was close a couple of times. But the bottom line is as a striker, he needs to score. I would love Torres to play every minute of every game (especially as this may be his last season with Atleti…), but he can’t start game after game and not score. Three goals is simply not good enough.

  • Koke

    This game is a big piece of undeniable proof to all the in-denial fans (and Simeone) who seem to think that tactics and team selection has nothing to do with how badly we’ve been playing this year. The first half Atleti and the second half Atleti weren’t even recognizable as the same team. What happened? One of them had 3 CMs and 5 defenders, the other one had 2 CMs and 4 defenders, plus 4 attacking players. The difference was incredible. We completely dominated Barcelona once Gaitan and Torres replaced Saul and a RB. Players do not lose and gain form over the course of 45 minutes. This game was just another piece of evidence that our extra-defensive lineups are completely useless. Oh and guess what? Not only did we create like a dozen good chances with 4 attack-minded players, we also conceded 0 goals, unlike in the first half when our ultra-defensive lineup conceded 2. Offense is really the best defense, and playing like cowards means we just let the opponent take advantage of us, whether its Alaves or Barcelona.

    Happily, we’ve seen the best Atleti of 2017 today. Happily, this might start a brand new era for Simeone and Atleti, as we build on what we did today. Sadly, stupid decisions might have already costed us our best chance at winning something this year. Those 2 away goals will haunt us.

    Anyway, there’s no way we can win if we don’t score 2 at the Camp Nou, so if Simeone doesn’t field an ultra attacking lineup like today’s second half he is utterly insane. I don’t know how many times someone needs to watch the difference to realize that more defensive lineups score less AND concede more.

  • Koke

    And I just wish Gabi and Torres could stay forever. Godin, Koke, Filipe and Juanfran also magically returned to their old selves.

  • AnonX

    They have ! Given the right mix as evident in the 2nd Half Today. We were revived !
    And that’s what really matter not the system or tactics. Always the personnel for this Team is made of Unquenchable Fire.

    Now Saul should’nt start and Torres should.

  • AndersAT

    Well against Alaves we played with 4 offensive players, and played arguably the worst game I have ever seen. The fact is we have also played some awful games with 4 offensive players, so I don’t buy your undeniable proof.

    I still think it’s a more general issue. And off course we can blame it all on Saul but I think that is naive. The entire team has played badly, not just Saul. But I do think that Simeone should have alternatives. I hope Thomas will get some regular playing time when he comes back, and I am looking forward to having augusto back to see if he can be a better alternative to partner up with Gabi and Koke.

  • Hannu

    But the thing is that Gameiro cant score either and if you watch the game Torres was 1000 times better and useful!

  • Hannu

    Actually Gimenez has been better than Godin as well.

  • Max Huber

    So to everyone who wants Torres starting – WHY THE HELL HE DOESN`T PLAY LIKE THIS EVERY MATCH!?! I really thought he can’t play at this level any more! And suddenly he shows that he still can do it – so why he doesn’t show this hunger in every game! He wants to stay at Atletico but most of the time he’s clumsy and slow and ineffective! He only shows quality when he really has to – mostly in the second half of the season!
    And in my opinion it’s not only a problem that he doesn’t get any service – very often he is unplayable or he doesn’t make anything with the chances he gets!

  • Vagabond Messi

    Problem was against Saul played so, it doesn’t matter what formation you play it screw whole midfield. Team gained midfield when he was subbed.

  • Hannu

    Actually we could ask why the whole team doesn´t play like this every match like we played second half but yeah you are right about that he should have this hunger in every match. Anyway when Gameiro came in the flow almost ended and he struggled again. I dont like to speak about his size but he is too small and thats why too weak to be striker at Atleti though Correa isnt that big either and he is better than Gameiro.

  • Vagabond Messi

    Savic lacks firepower to play as CB. I’d even take Lucas, last year Lucas was physically bullying Neymar , we need that type of Defenders. We should sell savic if we get 40m offer from any epl team. as far as Moya is concerned , he’s a great keeper. No keeper in the world could’ve done anything with those two goals. I was very opposed to Gameiro signing , he’s not suited to a team that plays long ball and depend on bullying defenders. He’s a striker that needs service from midfield.

  • Roberto

    The 2nd half gives hope 😉

  • Koke

    Yes, but that’s a single example. Also, against Alaves we kept a clean sheet, which we have rarely done lately, even when we had 5 or 6 defenders on the field and/or 3 holding midfielders. The fact is that if you look at the results we’ve gotten this season, the overwhelming majority of times when we started 4 attacking players, we’ve played very well, and when we’ve played with only 2 or 3 attack-minded players, we’ve often played very poorly, both in attack AND in defense.

    It’s crazy the difference between the halves yesterday. Yes, I’m sure Simeone gave a hell of a team talk, yes, I’m sure the players were more motivated, but no amount of motivation can explain how in one half we could barely create a single good chance and how in the other half we wouldn’t go 3 minutes without a great goalscoring opportunity – we had fucking Barca pegged back in their own half, sweating. I’m not one of the Saul-haters either, but I think he should never be preferred to Gaitan, only because our best formation requires a Gaitan-type player on the wing/AM role. And yes, I can’t wait to see Thomas back, I think he is criminally underrated and can play a similar AM or box to box role. And I think while Augusto will be good to rest Gabi, he wouldn’t make our attack any better (even though he could improve our shaky defense).


    Ghana lost the semifinal. Thomas should be back in Madrid soon.


    Now we can start with this XI against Barca. Unless someone gets injured against Leganes.