La Liga: Barcelona 2 – 1 Atlético
Atleti see red twice as Barcelona score important victory in title-race
Barcelona moved three points clear at the top of La Liga on Saturday afternoon after nine-man Atlético couldn’t do enough to force the issue at the Camp Nou.
Despite an early goal from Koke putting Atleti in the lead, some reckless defending and decision-making saw both Filipe Luís and Diego Godín shown red cards to make life harder than it needed to be for Diego Simeone’s men.
As the referee blew to start the game, Atlético burst into life. Pressing and finding space, Cholo had done his job before the game to lift the players.
The first chance of the game fell to Saúl, who shot from distance after only a couple of minutes. Claudio Bravo did well to get across the goal and tip the shot over his crossbar for a corner.
In reward for their fantastic start, Atlético Madrid took the lead with ten minutes on the clock. Unmarked in the middle of the Barcelona box, Koke was there to volley home a bouncing cross from Saúl out wide to give Diego Simeone’s men the lead.
Barcelona wasted very little time in going for the equaliser, but Godín and the goalscorer Koke were there to deny the Barcelona front three of Suárez, Neymar and Messi.
Atleti came close to doubling their lead just before the 20 minute mark, with Augusto finding space outside of the Barcelona box, but the new recruit from Celta could only fire a yard wide with his fierce shot.
Los Rojiblancos were going in hard on the Blaugrana. Godín and Gabi saw themselves into the referee’s book early on. A resulting free kick from Messi curled just wide of Jan Oblak’s post, but the Slovenian had it covered.
Five minutes later, the Atleti goalkeeper had to pull off a fantastic save after a shot from Luis Suárez tested the ex-Benfica goalkeeper’s reactions.
Barcelona continued to press, and on the half hour mark the home side drew level through Lionel Messi.
Atleti were struggling to cope with the number of continuous Barca attacks, and in the end a simple cutback from Jordi Alba gave Messi enough space to guide the ball into the back of Atleti’s net.
Yannick Carrasco, starting in behind Griezmann in a 4-4-2 for Atleti, put Griezmann in after a sharp pass into the box, but the Frenchman could only put the ball over the bar.
Seven minutes before half-time, Atlético’s defence collapsed again and Barcelona took the lead through Luis Suárez.
A long ball through from the Dani Alves in the Barcelona defence sent Suárez clear, and the striker pulled off a fantastic finish under Jan Oblak to make it two for the homeside.
José Giménez was marking his compatriot, but couldn’t get tight enough to prevent the shot.
Filipe Luís was having an interesting first half. The left-back had been lucky all match not to see the yellow card for a number of different tackles on Messi and Neymar, but the Brazilian lost his mind going into the last minutes of the first 45 and put a high boot in, studs up, to Lionel Messi’s knee.
More often than not a booking, the referee wasted very little time in showing a red card to Filipe, leaving Atlético Madrid a goal down and a man down going into half-time.
Gabi was taken off at half-time. The midfielder was already on a booking and was replaced by Jesús Gámez as Atleti looked to somehow keep alive any chance of some points.
Los Colchoneros started the second half as they had the first, and at time you would not have known that the visitors were down to ten men.
Antoine Griezmann almost put Atlético back on level terms ten minutes after half time, after a Carrasco cross found its way through to the Frenchman in the Barca box. He couldn’t quite get enough of a foot on it and was tremendously unlucky to see Claudio Bravo get a foot on the ball to put it out for a corner.
Just after the hour mark, Atleti were reduced to nine men after Diego Godín was shown a second yellow card for an excessive challenge on Luis Suárez.
Already on a card, Godín should have known better than to go in that hard on Suárez as he ran away from goal. It was a reckless decision from the Uruguayan.
And if that hadn’t made things hard enough for Atlético, just one minute later Arda Turan was brought on for Barcelona to replace Ivan Rakitic.
Simeone had no other option than to take off Antoine Griezmann up front, replacing him with Stefan Savic in order to fill the Diego Godín-shaped hole in Atlético’s defence.
To make things even worse, Atleti were forced into their third change of the afternoon after Augusto Fernández stayed down following a challenge on Arda Turan. The winter signing seemed to have overstretched and was clutching his left leg.
The ex-Celta man looked in some distress as he left the field on a stretcher, to be replaced by Thomas Partey. We hope it’s not long before we see him back on the field.
And just as we’re sat thinking that the day is done, and it can’t possibly deteriorate any more for los Rojiblancos, Arda Turan strikes just wide of Oblak’s post to remind us that things could, in fact, have got that little bit worse.
In the 90th minute of the match, Javier Mascherano gave away a free-kick in a crossing position for Atleti. Jan Oblak went forward to try and add a bit of height to the attack, but Claudio Bravo went up to claim the ball-in.
The defeat for Atlético today will have far-reaching consequences. Not only are Barcelona now clear at the top of La Liga with a game in hand, but the defending champions have cemented their better head-to-head record over Atlético.
If Atlético can pull themselves back level on points with Barcelona, the Catalans will hold the advantage because they have bested the Rojiblancos over the course of this season.
|Messi 30'||Koke 10'|
|30 January 2016|