Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez score as Barcelona beat nine-man Atletico Madrid 2-1
A 95,000 crowd at the Camp Nou saw Barcelona take a three-point lead at the top of La Liga as they beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 on Saturday. First-half goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were enough for Luis Enrique’s men to get all three points in spite of going down 1-0 to an early goal from Koke.
Barcelona: Claudio Bravo, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez
Atletico Madrid: Jan Oblak, Juanfran, Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez, Filipe Luis, Koke, Gabi, Augusto Fernandez, Saul, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Antoine Griezmann
First Half: Atletico take lead before Barcelona dominate
Atletico Madrid made their intentions known in the first half itself and ensured Barcelona knew it was going to be a physical battle right from kickoff. As early as the second minute, Saul Niguez tried to curl one into the top corner but Claudio Bravo was on hand to make a diving save to deny the Spanish midfielder.
However, the visitors soon took the lead in the 10th minute through Koke. Niguez was involved again and his cross from near the goal line found Koke unmarked in the box and the 24-year-old midfielder made no mistake in beating Bravo to make it 1-0.
Diego Simeone’s side were at it again after taking the lead, fouling persistently and the camp Nou crowd did not like it one bit, making their feelings known to the referee. Ultimately, Atletico captain Gabi would go into the book for a foul on Ivan Rakitic.
20 minutes after the opening goal, Barcelona got their breakthrough. A move started by Neymar saw Jordi Alba overlapping him and the Brazilian forward released the Spanish full-back on the left. Alba took one touch before crossing it low into the box to find Lionel Messi who found the back of the net. It was the first goal the Rojiblancos had conceded in almost 500 minutes in La Liga.
Six minutes before half-time, Luis Suarez would double the lead for the home side. A sumptuous lob from Dani Alves bypassed the entire Atletico defence and Suarez allowed it to bounce once before volleying it past Jan Oblak to make it 2-1. It was his 19th league goal of the season – now two goals ahead of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
But the half ended on a sour note as Atletico full-back Filipe Luis was guilty of kicking Messi in the knee while attempting to take the ball away from him. As Messi rolled on the ground in agony, Barcelona boss Luis Enrique was screaming at the match officials and the referee obliged with a red card for the Brazilian.
Second Half: Second red card kills game
Down to 10 men, Simeone opted to play a 4-4-1 formation with Antoine Griezmann leading the line alone. Gabi had also been taken off with Jesus Gamez taking his place. The first 15 minutes saw the visitors showing a lot of heart and actually dominated the game for that period, mounting one attack after another while Barcelona failed to move the ball forward.
Carrasco made a superb run up the field only to be denied by Gerard Pique at the last possible moment. Soon after, Griezmann got on the end of the cross and almost scored but Bravo’s foot came to the Catalan club’s rescue.
But in the 65th minute, Atletico saw Diego Godin get sent off for a second yellow card. A rash tackle on Suarez saw the Uruguayan bring down his compatriot and the referee had no option but to send him off.
Even Simeone would have had no complaints with that tackle – one that was not required as Suarez was moving away from goal towards the corner flag. The resulting free-kick saw Messi try and catch Oblak off guard but the goalkeeper managed to get his palms up and parry it away.
Arda Turan would then celebrate his 29th birthday by coming on as a substitute against his former team who were in dire straits with only nine men on the pitch. He would even come close to scoring when Sergio Busquets found him in the box with a through ball but the Turkish midfielder’s shot on the turn went just wide of the far post.
Barcelona would have a few more attempts on goal in the final stages of the match but Atletico managed to keep them at bay and keep the scoreline respecatble considering their situation. As the full-time whistle blew, the Camp Nou crowd celebrated Barcelona’s three-point lead at the top of the table – with a game in hand.