Barcelona 2-1 Atletico Madrid: Player Ratings
Atletico Madrid traveled to Camp Nou to face Barcelona in a La Liga tie which would potentially decide the title this season. Atletico had to record a win to put pressure on Barca, who have a game in hand, at a ground where the Rojiblancos secured the title two seasons ago. However, Barcelona have not lost against Atletico in their last nine league outings, and Diego Simeone’s men would have to put in a Herculean performance if they are to walk away with three points.
Atletico Madrid came flying out of the blocks, and for the first time for as long as one can remember, Barcelona were under the cosh and pinned inside their own half. Koke scored a goal for Atleti, as they transformed their dominance into something tangible, and the Camp Nou faithful were being apprehensive about an upset. What transpired in the remainder of the first-half was scarcely believable as Barcelona zoomed back in front through Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, as Atletico imploded with three yellow cards and one red card for a dastardly challenge on Messi. There were no surprises in the second half, and bar a few anxious moments, Barcelona rounded off a title-securing win as Simeone’s side finished with nine men.
Bravo - 7.5 – Barcelona’s Chilean custodian made two world-class saves in the 3rd and 58th minute in contrasting phases of the game. Such was Atletico’s capitulation that this major contribution is easy to overlook.
Alves - 7 – The likes of Iniesta and Alves may be entering the twilight of their careers, but the qualities of their performances are not dropping – and Alves’ solid show against Atleti is a case in point. Chosen ahead of Vidal for the crunch tie, Alves endured a torrid start to the game before completing the turnaround with a fabulous assist for Suarez’s goal.
Pique - 6.5 – Having recently bagged the best Catalan player of the year award, Pique showed everyone just why he is as important to Barca as MSN with a last-ditch tackle to deny then 10-man Atleti an equalizer in the 55th minute.
Mascherano - 6.5 – Pique’s fellow centre-back returned to the backline after playing in the midfield in the tie against Bilbao, and put in a solid performance.
Alba – 7 - The Spaniard returned from a hamstring injury, but was absolutely beaten by Saul, which lead to Atleti’s opener. However, the left-back came back strongly with a sublime assist for Messi’s equalizer.
Rakitic - 6.5 – The Croatian midfielder had a good game, and was subbed off for Arda Turan.
Busquets – 6.5 – The Spanish midfield enforcer returned to the starting line-up having been rested for the midweek game against Bilbao, and like his teammates, was hapless in the opening exchanges. However, the champions successfully turned the game around Busquets didn’t have much to do as the visitors were reduced to 9 men.
Iniesta - 6.5 – Having been hailed by his national team coach Vincente del Bosque, Iniesta would have returned to Barcelona’s starting eleven with a lot of confidence. The midfield maestro looked sharp and sprightly but Barcelona were not keen to press for more goals.
Neymar – 7 – The MSN trident played their 50th game together and may play many more together yet, as Barcelona seem to be on the verge of extending their sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways. Neymar put in a good performance and caused Atleti’s makeshift backline problems.
Suarez - 7.5 – The Uruguayan forward is now La Liga’s top scorer, having pulled two goals ahead of Karim Benzema. His movement and threatening runs caused Diego Godin to commit two rash tackles on him, resulting in Suarez’s national teammates’ sending off.
Messi – 7.5 – Barcelona’s talisman scored when his team needed him most, as Barca played like champions by overcoming immense pressure from Atleti. He was the subject of a horrific hack by Felipe Luis, which could have seriously injured the five-time Balon D’Or winner.
Turan - 6 – Came on to face his old team on his birthday, but the contest was settled by the time the Turk made his appearance.
Roberto - N.A. – The versatile youngster was a late substitute.
Oblak - 6 – Jan Oblak returned between the sticks having been rested for the midweek game, and made a fantastic save just before Messi’s equalizer. Sadly, he couldn’t do much for Barcelona’s two goals, watching on helplessly as his team collapsed in front of him.
Juanfran – 5.5 – The former Osasuna man was one of three Atletico players to get a yellow card in the first half – reflective of the capitulation by Simeone’s men.
Godin - 5 – He endured a night to forget as he did little to prevent Barcelona from scoring two goals. Two mindless fouls on Suarez resulted in him being sent off, and that scarcely aided his side who were already down to ten men.
Gimenez – 6 – The young defender should have done more to prevent Suarez’s goal, as the latter emerged the stronger of the two in their physical tussle leading up to the goal. A few good blocks and no cards meant he had a batter day than his defensive partners.
Luis - 4.5 – The Chelsea reject will surely face a lengthy ban for his diabolical tackle on Messi, and was the personification of Atleti’s capitulation after an amazing start.
Koke - 6.5 – Atletico had previously never lost a match in which Koke had scored, and was his team’s brightest spot with a good goal and a stinging free-kick effort.
Augusto - 5.5 – Simeone’s latest signing seems to be facing a spell on the sidelines having been stretchered off due to an injury.
Gabi - 5.5 – The midfielder’s best contribution was a yellow card for a rash hack on Rakitic, and was hauled off at half-time as Simeone reshuffle his remaining ten players.
Ferreira-Carrasco – 6.5 – The former Monaco winger displayed a lot of grit in fighting a lost battle, and created many chances, and really should have scored a goal or two but for his poor finishing.
Saul – 6 – He completely outwitted Jordi Alba and supplied the opener for Koke, as the Rojiblancos started the game strongly.
Griezmann – 6 – The Frenchman was the lone striker for Atleti for this match. His finishing let him down and was substituted for a centre-back as Simeone gave up on the match.
Gamez – 5.5 – The right-back filled in for Felipe Luis.
Savic – 5.5– He was brought on as Atleti hoped to stop further embarrassment.
Partey – 4 – The young midfielder was brought on late, but found enough time to get his name in the referee’s book for a yellow card.