Three takeaways from Atlético’s 1-1 draw to Barcelona

What can Cholo's men from Tuesday's Copa del Rey semi-final exit?

Torres has been in improved form lately

Torres has been in improved form lately

In the end, inefficiency in front of goal, and one poor off-side decision cost Atlético Madrid a chance to come back from their 2-1 deficit heading into the second-leg of the Copa del Rey final at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Los rojiblancos ended up conceding one goal at the hands of Luis Suárez a couple of minutes before the half, an opening first stretch that saw the hosts struggle to impose their possession-based style and composure due to Atleti’s clever high-pressing and imaginative passing.

However, for all Atleti’s creativity in Barça’s half in the first 35 minutes, the visitors were left with nothing to show for on the scoreboard due to poorly placed shots following some great build-up transitions:

As it happened, Barça headed into the second half with a 1-0 lead and opened the second stretch with improved quality on the ball and ability to break Atleti’s high-press.

Sergi Roberto would spoil their improvement after he was awarded a second yellow for a challenge on Filipe Luís.

As a result of the hosts going down a man, Atlético was able to calm their nerves, but it didn’t last. Yannick Carrasco would also earn a second yellow thus evening both sides to 10 men each.

With twenty minutes left until added time, Gerard Piqué ended up taking down Kevin Gameiro and the former Sevilla man was awarded a penalty.

Despite being a decent penalty taker, Gameiro ended up sending his shot toward the moon and Atlético was left to keep fighting to overcome the now 3-1 deficit.

Three minutes later, however, the French striker equalized on a neat finish and closed the deficit to one goal (3-2 agg).

Atleti’s comeback didn’t come to fruition and the score was to stay the same despite Suarez receiving a second yellow in stoppage time, earning the third red card of the match, and leaving Barça with nine men.

Read on below as AtléticoFans and Carlo Valladares discuss our three takeaways from Tuesday’s match:

3. The passing game and possession style isn’t a lost project

It’s no secret that Atleti has opted to play more expansive football this season. Following two draws to open the domestic campaign, Atleti went on a nine-game unbeaten run across all competitions and then hit a rough patch at the end of October and for most of November in crucial La Liga matches.

After our Madrid derby embarrassment, Diego Simeone opted to approach games with a “stop the bleeding” mentality and Atleti started to slowly acquire points with minimal hiccups and defeats. Despite some inconsistency in December and January, Atleti seemed to have abandoned the possession-based game and opted for their older, more pragmatic approach.

Some recent fixtures across both the Copa del Rey and Spanish Primera has seen Atleti struggle to impose their will on a match through prolonged possession and creative passing plays. However, that wasn’t the case in both legs against Barcelona.

The first-leg of the tie at the Vicente Calderón saw Atlético struggle in the first half only to play some scintillating football in the second. Griezmann’s header in the second half of that match was the only goal Atlético scored in the 2-1 defeat, but they had quite a few chances in that second stretch to equalize and to put themselves ahead.

It was widely accepted that Simeone’s men nearly played Luis Enrique’s men off the pitch in the second-half, but succumbed to inefficiency in front on goal. As it happened, the second-leg at the Camp Nou started just where los rojiblancos left off:

They possessed and moved the ball in dangerous areas only for the chances of Carrasco, Godin, and others to be placed directly at Barça keeper Jasper Cillessen or over and wide of his net. The first thirty minutes of the match was some of the best football Atlético Madrid has played in a quality opponent’s half this season.

Diego Simeone even praised the performance of his men despite being eliminated from the competition, per atlé

“They had chances to score, made good judgements, pressed well and sought to harm the rival. I leave feeling proud. The team put their souls and hearts in the match. We played the qualifying round with passion.”

2. Atlético Need to Find a Designated and Clinical Penalty Taker

When Gameiro missed his penalty and gave extraterrestrials a souvenir from Spain, this Atleti scribe was left wondering why Gameiro, a player who although is quite good at converting penalties, was given the spot kick when he likely isn’t at full confidence in overall play due to his tenure in a red and white shirt being controversial at best.

Griezmann is our best striker, there is no denying it. But the former Real Sociedad man has well-documented issues converting from 12 yards. He missed his latest of recent penalty blunders this past Saturday in Atleti’s league match against Leganes.

Yes, Gameiro earned the penalty when he was taken down by Piqué, but he’s shown he’s just not as confident as before. In addition to his overall form being subpar to what we expected from him, he was also faced with the daunting task of getting his side back into the game on a 3-1 deficit while at the Camp Nou. That’s a serious amount of pressure. Atlético need to find someone to finish penalties in these big and crucial matches.

1. Torres still has something to offer

In that second-half surge in the first-leg at the Vicente Calderón, Fernando Torres was brought on at half-time for Sime Vrsaljko and looked dangerous with his movement on the ball and work rate off the ball to help his side win back possession.

To add to that promising display, El Nino added two goals in the match against Leganes last weekend, a game in which the former Chelsea man started as well. Furthermore, he ended a four-month goal scoring drought in that Leganes match and arguably didn’t deserve to be taken off in Tuesday’s match for Gameiro in the 61st minute. Personally, I would have taken out Carrasco. Regardless, with Torres improving his form and confidence, I’d like to see him get more minutes going forward.

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