Barcelona may have taken a giant step towards the La Liga title with a great 2-1 comeback win over Atlético Madrid at Camp Nou, thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, with Koke scoring for the visitors. In what felt like a league final, the Blaugrana played a great match and sustained Atleti's toughness en route to a giant victory. There are still 17 matches to go for the Catalan giants, but they are certainly heavy championship favorites after today.
As expected, the match started with Atlético bringing pressure to Barça's buildup play, troubling the hosts' passing and recovering the ball close to the box. The Colchoneros forced Claudio Bravo to a fantastic save, and their intensity brought them a goal. A cross by Saúl found an open Koke, who finished the play with a pretty shot to score the opener.
Barça had problems with creativity after the goal, suffering to break through the Rojiblancos barrier in front of the box. But the Blaugrana slowly improved, and showed patience to find good chances. They did, and capitalized. Thirty minutes in, a fantastic passing sequence involving every midfield and attacking Barça player ended up with a beautiful grounded cross by Alba for a first-touch shot by Messi and the game-tying goal.
Eight minutes later, a sensational long pass by Dani Alves found Luis Suárez, who used his body to shield the defender and shot between the keeper's legs to give Barça the lead.
The game got nervous towards halftime, and Filipe Luís crossed the line with a violent kick to Messi's knee, which got the Atleti full-back a red card. Heading into the locker room, Barça had the lead and the number advantage on the pitch.
With ten men on the field, Atleti did not get any more defensive. They went up the field and looked for their equalizer. Ferreira Carrasco and his runs created hell on Barça's backline, and one of his crosses found Antoine Griezmann, who came close to tying the game, but Bravo once again saved the day with a ridiculous goal-stopping move with his left foot.
Atleti looked more and more dangerous, but one giant mistake by the team's most experienced player ruined their afternoon. Captain Diego Godín made an unnecessary, hard tackle on Suárez that earned the Colchonero defender a second booking and a red card. Being down to only nine men at Camp Nou was just too much for Diego Simeone's soldiers to handle.
With plenty of space on the pitch to work with, Barça had the ball for pretty much all of the remaining minutes, and patiently waited to find a third goal. It didn't come, but they kept the ball so the visitors wouldn't have any scoring opportunities.
In the end, a fantastic comeback victory, the isolated lead at the top of the table, and a huge step towards a championship. Perfect afternoon.
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves (Roberto), Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic (Arda), Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar
Goals: Messi (30'), Suárez (38')
Atlético Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran, Godín, Giménez, Luís; Gabi (Gámez), Augusto (Thomas); Saúl, Koke, Carrasco; Griezmann (Savic)
Goals: Koke (10')