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UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 1-1 Atletico Madrid: Match Review

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A recap of Barcelona's hard-fought 1-1 home draw against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg at the Camp Nou

Clive Rose

FC Barcelona fought from a goal deficit to salvage a 1-1 quarter-final first-leg draw with Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou on Tuesday, as Neymar’s late equaliser cancelled out substitute Diego Ribas’ sensational second-half opener. Barcelona had chances to win the game, but were denied by a combination of Thibaut Courtois and their own hesitancy in front of goal. With the tie evenly-poised, all eyes will be on next week and the return leg at the Vicente Calderon.


Atletico Madrid




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There were few surprises on the selection front: Gerardo Martino elected for his usual big-game line-up – Neymar and Lionel Messi together in attack with a dynamic four-man midfield in support. The only change was forced, Victor Valdés is of course sidelined for the remainder of the season, hence Jose Manuel Pinto was the man between the sticks. Diego Simeone didn’t rock the boat either. Diego Costa, despite being reported as a "doubt", started in attack. David Villa was perhaps the only surprise selection, perhaps an admission that Diego Costa wasn’t firing on all cylinders? With the team news in, attentions turned to the game at hand; would that too live up to expectations?

Yes, although each side set about it in their own unique way. Barcelona wanted to get the ball on the turf, establish their usual possession-based style and go from there, but Atletico Madrid wanted to create chaos, pressing high up the field where appropriate and sitting back in their own defensive third when not. They wanted to disrupt the Barça philosophy and enforce their own tempo on this game and in the early stages, they succeeded.

The match started rather frenetically, breeding mistakes from the Barcelona contingent. Neymar lost possession too easily in his own half and Atleti created their first shot of the night as a result, before Jose Manuel Pinto’s hurried kick gifted the visitors an even better chance, only for David Villa to drag his shot wide of the post. It was a let-off, but equally, Villa never really looked like scoring.

Barcelona settled into their rhythm, but were soon disrupted once again – Gerard Piqué jumped up to challenge for a header and Diego Costa moved backwards, not allowing Piqué the space to land properly. The Catalan centre-half tumbled over the frame of the brutish centre-forward and landed heavily on his hip. It looked awkward and Piqué was in real discomfort. Try as he might to run it off, Piqué was simply in too much pain to continue and Marc Bartra was his replacement.

Worrying signs for Barcelona, but no reason to lose hope. At the other end of the field, the Barça attack was rumbling into life. Lionel Messi was at the forefront, of course. Shimmying away from Miranda the Argentine magician drew an audible gasp from the appreciative Camp Nou crowd, but his work wasn’t done there. Threading the ball through the Atletico defense he found Andrés Iniesta ghosting into space and just like the Clasico all over again, Iniesta was looking to pull the trigger – only for Diego Godin to play the saviour with a crucial last-ditch block.

It was an intriguing tie, and neither team could really separate themselves from the other. For the visitors, their chances of doing just that were getting slimmer by the moment – Diego Costa, a game-time decision from Diego Simeone, pulled up holding his thigh. His night was over, and Atletico Madrid’s gameplan was in ruins. Certainly that’s the impression that Simeone gave on the touchline. He was gesturing desperately in the hope that his talismanic forward could continue, but to no avail.

In his absence, David Villa would lead the line and after being gifted the game’s best chance early on, he got another good chance on the stroke of half-time. Intelligent play from Filipe Luis released El Guaje to attack Marc Bartra, and he did just that, only to be foiled by a good save from stand-in goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.

The match was evenly poised. The Camp Nou was on a knife edge and the tension was building. Would either side find a breakthrough in the second-half?

45 minutes is a long time in football, so the odds were stacked in favour of either Barcelona or Atletico eventually breaking that deadlock, and on the balance of play, one assumed it would be the Blaugrana who would get that goal. It wasn’t to be. Instead the visitors found the breakthrough.

Perhaps it would be accurate to describe it as bludgeoning their way to a breakthrough; Diego replaced Diego Costa in the first-half, and had been bright since his entrance onto the Camp Nou field. Just how bright? Try an absolute screamer from 30 yards bright. The Brazilian will probably never hit a shot as sweetly again, but it doesn’t matter. His swerving effort caught everyone off-guard and spiralled into the top-corner, stunning Gerardo Martino and his side.

Atletico Madrid were 1-0 ahead at the Camp Nou.

It was an away goal, it was an aggregate lead, it was everything Barcelona would have been striving to avoid in this match. Now they needed a response. Attentions turned to Lionel Messi, to Andrés Iniesta and to Neymar. Sergio Busquets was the first to respond, testing Thibaut Courtois with a volley from 25 yards. It was well-directed, but the Belgian sprung to his left and palmed the ball away for a corner kick.

An encouraging sign, but still the Atletico defense held firm.

Alexis Sánchez replaced Cesc Fàbregas as Barcelona switched back to the 4-3-3 in search of an equaliser, a switch that coincided with the equaliser. Andrés Iniesta was the creator, threading an immense pass between Juanfran and Miranda to find the exceptional run of Neymar, who finished with icy composure. One chance, one goal. This was Neymar at his very best, vindicating Martino’s decision to select the superstar Brazilian ahead of both Sánchez and Pedro.

Barcelona were back. They were fired up and Atletico Madrid were on the ropes. No longer did they have an outlet in attack – David Villa was gone, replaced by another energetic midfielder in Jose Sosa – and now they were being penned back into their own area. Barça were hunting for a quickfire second; Andrés Iniesta nearly provided it. Thibaut Courtois was on hand to deny it.

The second goal seemed like a certainty rather than a possibility. When not if. Yet somehow Atletico Madrid rode their luck, they played out the worst of the pressure and regrouped. Barcelona would have to reassess if they were to find a way past Atleti again; they knew that they probably needed that second goal for the good of their chances in this tie, but finding it was proving troublesome.

Lionel Messi was quiet, subdued even. Alexis Sánchez was all effort and little substance. Neymar was only impressing in small doses. But the quality was there. Lionel Messi’s curling free-kick forced another tremendous save from Thibaut Courtois. Messi’s defense-splitting through ball created an incredible chance for Alexis Sánchez to grab a winner, but the Chilean froze, like a rabbit caught in the headlights he hesitated and missed his chance to pull the trigger.

And like that, Barcelona’s best chance at a win passed by without so much as a whimper. They had done more than enough to get a win, but Atletico on balance, probably didn’t deserve to lose. What’s done is done, and now Barcelona must travel to the Vicente Calderon and secure a result if they wish to progress to the semi-finals for the sixth season in succession. As it stands, the 1-1 draw simply will not be enough.

Next up, Barcelona host Real Betis at the Camp Nou, but until then, Visca el Barça!

Roll Call Info
Total comments 712
Total commenters 34
Commenter list AL_LM10, Anders Thomassen, Barca4ever, Barcacatalunya, Eixample amigo, FCB4Ever, FCBMessi, FCBblaug, Harshiv Karia, Ian Reynolds, Inder Methil, Iniesta_obsession, Lapulga, Mauste, NoImagination90, PatrickJM6, Ricardo Blonde, Som-i-Serem, ThreePar, Tokjee, Uncharted_Almo, ViscaViscaBarca, barca96, brodiebomber, craig00000, cule-since-1992, david.james, dlapa, feeya7, messism, pogis1991, rnmrqz, stocks712, syredeathtrooper
Story URLs
# Commenter # Comments
1 NoImagination90 145
2 Barcacatalunya 95
3 ThreePar 82
4 Anders Thomassen 50
5 Harshiv Karia 40
6 AL_LM10 34
7 Ian Reynolds 29
8 messism 28
9 rnmrqz 23
10 Uncharted_Almo 23
11 Lapulga 23
12 FCBblaug 21
13 feeya7 18
14 FCB4Ever 15
15 syredeathtrooper 14
16 PatrickJM6 13
17 Tokjee 11
18 ViscaViscaBarca 11
19 dlapa 9
20 Barca4ever 4
21 Mauste 4
22 Ricardo Blonde 3
23 Iniesta_obsession 3
24 cule-since-1992 3
25 craig00000 2
26 david.james 1
27 pogis1991 1
28 barca96 1
29 Inder Methil 1
30 brodiebomber 1
31 FCBMessi 1
32 stocks712 1
33 Som-i-Serem 1
34 Eixample amigo 1