La Liga: Barcelona 3 – 1 Atlético
Atleti miss the chance to move into second after disappointing loss
Atlético missed out on the chance to claim second place in La Liga for their own on Sunday night, after losing 3-1 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Some defensive difficulties for Atleti were exposed by the trio of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, who notched a goal each in Barca’s first win over Atlético in seven matches.
Atleti were spectators for a good portion of the match, as some good interplay from Barca’s offensive trio unpicked the Atleti defence repeatedly.
With seventeen shots on goal for the Blaugrana, they attacked the weakness of Jesus Gamez in the left-back position, and the first goal almost came from that area. Lionel Messi, after beating Gamez, shot just wide of Moyá’s near post.
Atleti didn’t heed the warning this should have given them, and in the 12th minute Barcelona took the lead.
A Messi one-two with Dani Alves found the Argentinean in the box. Godín couldn’t clear the first effort, and the ball fell to Luis Suarez, who had an even worse first touch. The contact caught Juanfran out, as it trickled past his intended clearance and into the path of Neymar, who bundled the ball home from six yards to make it 1-0.
It was almost 2-0 twenty seconds later, but a good save from Moyá after a Luis Suarez shot made sure that the difference was only one.
It was a feisty affair, with nine yellow cards dished out over the 90 minutes. In a lot of cases, the game was lucky to finish with its full complement of 22 players.
The first such incident came after a Barcelona set piece. A pumped-up José Giménez, starting in place of a fit-again Miranda, crunched through Neymar on the edge of the Atleti box. It looked like a fair challenge at first glance, but replays showed he could have given away a foul. Neymar left the pitch with a sock drenched in his own blood. Messi should have seen red too, for an elbow on Gamez.
Neymar returned shortly after and had an excellent chance to make it 2-0. A Luis Suarez piece of skill got the ball away from Giménez, and a chipped cross to Neymar should have been buried. Instead the young Brazilian headed the ball into the ground and wide of the post.
The bad blood continued and Gamez was booked for a tough challenge on Messi.
It didn’t phase Messi though, and shortly after the score was 2-0, after a bit of luck on Barcelona’s part. Messi took a ball out of the air using his arm, and used it to control the ball and run at the Atlético defence. His pass through to Suarez took a slight deflection off of Gabi, but it didn’t stop Suarez from getting his second goal in the league. 2-0 at half-time.
Atleti started the second half stronger, and managed to win their first corner of the game in the 48th minute. However it wasn’t of the quality we’re used to, and the danger from our so-called ‘penalty-corners’ seemed dampened.
But it was time for a bit of luck to shine on Atleti, and if we weren’t converting our corners, then a penalty would have to do.
Lionel Messi, giving away the first penalty of his Barcelona career, got a touch on Gamez ankle as the Spaniard tried to fish out a cross. The ex-Malaga went down hard, and the referee pointed to the spot. The replays show that there was contact, but perhaps not enough to bring our makeshift left-back to his backside.
Mario Mandzukic stepped up to take the penalty in an extremely loud Camp Nou, but the pressure didn’t seem to affect the Croation, who smashed the ball down the middle of the goal to bring Atleti back into it. He pressed his finger to his lips as silence fell across the stadium.
The fans were back on their feet a few minutes later, after calls for a Barca penalty went ignored. A forceful José Giménez clattered into Rakitic in the Atleti area, heading the ball away and knocking the Barca man to the floor. No penalty awarded, although the protests were fierce.
Despite a raft of changes from Cholo, the substitutions had little impact on the result. Fernando Torres, jeered by the Camp Nou on his return, replaced Gabi midway through the second half. Griezmann was sacrified for Raúl García shortly after, but again the change fell flat.
Atleti did start to apply some pressure on the Barcelona goal with a wave of corner-kicks. An excellent piece of skill from Arda Turan nutmegged Piqué and took Iniesta out of the game, before a fierce Fernando Torres shot was spilled by Claudio Bravo. The ball fell to Raúl García on the edge of the area, but he made a bad decision to try to chip the ball in, which was easily caught by the relieved goalkeeper.
The game was over three minutes from time when another display of poor defending from Atlético saw Messi end his goal draught against last-year’s title winners.
An attempted one-two between Messi and Rakitic looked to have fizzled out, but the poor return pass from Rakitic bounced off of a helpless Raúl García and into the path of Messi, who made it 3-1 from close-range.
At times tonight, it was hard to see which club was in alleged chaos behind the scenes. Now three points off of Barcelona, and four points off of Real Madrid having played a game more, Atleti need to shake off tonight’s loss and regroup ahead of the Copa del Rey second leg at the Bernabeu on Thursday.
What did you think of tonight’s performance? Is this a serious blow to our title defence, or are there enough games left to recover?
|L Suarez 35'|
|Messi 87'||Mandzukic (p) 57'|
|11 January 2015|
|Raúl García (74')|