Champions League: Barcelona 1 – 1 Atlético
Thriller at Camp Nou undecided
The Champions League tie between FC Barcelona and Club Atlético de Madrid is still wide open after the first leg at Camp Nou finished 1-1.
Atlético seemed to get away with a sneaky 1-0 win through a fantastic long ranger by Diego Ribas, but Neymar tied things up as Barcelona tried to take an advantage into next week’s return leg.
From the first till the very last moment the European cup clash between the two Spanish side was a spectacular and nerve-wracking battle, with Atlético coming out surprisingly offensively in the early goings. They pressured Barcelona on their own half and forced a number of errors, one of which almost lead to a goal by David Villa in the fifth minute, but the former Culé fired inches wide.
Atleti’s chances seemed to increase when Gerard Piqué had to leave the pitch injured, as Barça’s defensive trio of Pinto-Mascherano-Bartra appeared vulnerable on paper. But the Rojiblancos’ ambitions took a hit when Diego Costa came off in the first half too after pulling a hamstring. At this point it’s not clear how long our topscorer will be out.
Barcelona was shut down by Atlético’s defence, but a single lapse almost lead to Iniesta taking advantage. The midfielder’s shot was blocked by an amazing sliding tackle by Diego Godín who helped out his ‘keeper on the goal line.
In the added time of the first half David Villa nearly surprised the entire Barça defence, but Pinto was paying attention and managed to push the Asturian’s strike wide.
While the first half had been even, the second half was all Barcelona’s. But, against the run of play, it was Atleti who struck first. And how. In the 55th minute Diego received the ball in the centre of the pitch. He was forced wide as he avoided Xavi’s challenge, and then, out of absolutely nowhere, he blasted the ball into the topcorner from 35 meters out. The thunderstrike completely surprised the poor Pinto and earned Atleti an important away goal.
Barça almost immediately tried to strike back with a lovely attempt of their own, but Thibaut Courtois did well to stop Busquets’ shot from distance. Atleti, with a goal in their pocket, retreated and allowed Barcelona to push forward. They were led by the magnificent Andrés Iniesta, without a doubt the best player on the pitch on Tuesday night. In the 71st minute Iniesta played a perfect pass into the path of Neymar, who calmly slotted the ball past Courtois with the inside of his boot. The Brazilian has been the only Blaugrana player to score against Atlético in four games this season.
A few moments later Iniesta nearly added a second himself, but he was denied by Courtois. The Belgian ‘keeper single handedly kept his team in it as he made another spectacular save some minutes later to block Leo Messi’s free kick. It would be the game’s final moment as the match ended, for the 4th time this season, in a draw.
Next week Atleti will try to maintain their unbeaten record in the Champions League when they host the Catalans at the Vicente Calderón.
|Neymar 71'||Diego 56'|
|UEFA Champions League|
|01 April 2014|
|Diego Costa (30')|
|C. Rodríguez (77')|