UEFA : Barcelona come from behind to beat Atletico Madrid

UEFA : Barcelona come from behind to beat Atletico Madrid

Barcelona battled back from a goal down in the first half to beat a 10 man Atletico Madrid side 2-1 at the Camp Nou in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, courtesy of a brace from Suarez. 

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The visitors started well in the first half of the game 

After losing a gruelling Clasico encounter on Saturday, going up against Atletico—arguably the most determined, intense and physical side in European football—just three days later was always going to be a massive test for Barcelona.

The game settled into the expected pattern early on, with Diego Simeone’s visitors settling into a solid shape and trying to tease Barcelona forward to facilitate dangerous breaks. The home side—who were donning their change kit, oddly—were happy to take their time, building meticulously.

The first big chance for the Blaugrana came in the 13th minute, as Lionel Messi skied over after Jordi Alba’s cutback, then Neymar missed an even better opportunity, heading over after a delicate cross from Dani Alves. 

But aside from those openings, Barcelona struggled to build momentum and Atleti were looking comfortable defensively; Spanish football expert Rafael Hernandez wasn’t pleased with the setup from Barcelona:

“Messi on the midfield will never work with the current gameplan… Literally has two lines to break before getting to the goal…”

And they paid for a sluggish start, as Atletico sprung with a fine break to take the lead in the 25th minute. Koke did wonderfully to prod the ball into the clear and Torres latched on to the pass, finishing through Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s legs to give the visitors a vital away goal.

Fernando Torres now has 11 goals in 17 games against Barcelona.

In the aftermath of that breakthrough, the visitors grew in stature, with Antoine Griezmann forcing a save from Ter Stegen moments later. Torres was looking threatening too, although his involvement in the game was sensationally curtailed.

The goalscorer had been booked after 29 minutes for a trip, then, just six minutes later, he clattered into Sergio Busquets on the halfway line. After howls of derision from the Camp Nou, the referee produced a second yellow for Torres, leaving Simeone aghast and his side down to 10 men.

In the aftermath of that breakthrough, the visitors grew in stature, with Antoine Griezmann forcing a save from Ter Stegen moments later. Torres was looking threatening too, although his involvement in the game was sensationally curtailed.

The goalscorer had been booked after 29 minutes for a trip, then, just six minutes later, he clattered into Sergio Busquets on the halfway line. After howls of derision from the Camp Nou, the referee produced a second yellow for Torres, leaving Simeone aghast and his side down to 10 men.

The former struck the woodwork with a rasping shot, before missing another great chance with his head. Messi then sprung Jan Oblak into action with a stinging effort, as the size of the task facing Atletico quickly became apparent

Atletico did make it to an hour unscathed, but Barcelona were getting closer and closer to breaching their bunkered back line. And eventually, their quality proved too much, as Suarez bundled in an equaliser in the 63rd minute.

There was a touch of fortune about it, as Alba’s shot was shanked across goal. But the Uruguay forward put himself in a brilliant position to level it up, reacting quickly to prod the ball home.

There was still time to extend the advantage for Barca with 16 minutes remaining and the effects of a physical encounter clearly starting to catch up with Atletico. But they dug in to get through the latter stages and keep their chances of qualification very much alive in this one.

While Simeone was clearly unhappy at the red card, on reflection he can have few complaints. Torres’ side were playing superbly prior to his dismissal, and while Barcelona will always come strong late on in the game, you do wonder whether or not they would have been able to cling on with the full cast; ultimately, they’ll have been pleased to keep the deficit down to just one here.

The home side deserve credit for their efforts, too. Atletico are a team who are tenacious and cohesive, even when they are a man down, and Enrique will be delighted with the amount of chances his players conjured in the second period.

Still, they will be aware they will face an almighty challenge in front of a raucous Vicente Calderon crowd in the second leg.