Barcelona capitulate once again
Barcelona actually played pretty well against Atletico and were good value for their 2-1 lead, indeed they could have had more if not for VAR and an inspired Jan Oblak.
However, all their good work was undone late on as the team capitulated yet again and conceded late goals to Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa.
Barcelona’s backline fell apart as Atletico ripped right through the heart of the defence to win a penalty off Neto, converted by Morata, and then score again after another quick break.
Antoine Griezmann talked about his former club having “fresher legs” after the match, Lionel Messi said his team had made “childish errors” and Ernesto Valverde insisted his team had “had the game under control” until Atletico struck late on.
Either way there’s no doubting Barcelona threw the win away, and their failure to kill off Atletico will be of concern as will the team’s continuing vulnerability in defence that shows no sign of ending.
Of course it’s not the first time Barcelona have fallen to pieces under Valverde from a winning position, and the worrying thing is it’s probably not the last either.
VAR steals the headlines
VAR played a key role in Barcelona’s defeat in a busy night for the match officials on and off the pitch in Saudi Arabia.
Messi saw a fine goal ruled out for handball which looked a harsh call, the ball perhaps brushing his shoulder as he plucked it out of the air. The GOAT then combined with Arturo Vidal to tee up a goal for Gerard Pique which was also chalked off for a marginal offside.
Mundo Deportivo’s headline was SuperVAR after the match, although Barcelona probably aren’t too enamoured with the technology after having two goals disallowed.
Had those goals been given Barcelona would have been 4-1 up and cruising, instead the decisions seemed only to demoralise the champions and inspire Atletico to mount a comeback.
VAR was called upon again for Atletico’s penalty, and Simeone’s side will also feel they might have had another when Gerard Pique escaped a handball appeal late on.
Barcelona may feel a little hard done by with the decisions and frustrated by the role of VAR, but the technology is not to blame for the team’s late collapse.
What now for Barcelona and Valverde?
Ernesto Valverde found himself being booed by supporters in the stadium whenever his name flashed up on the big screen, and his popularity will have only decreased further after another late collapse.
However, the players and staff were quick to back the boss after the match. Messi said the team still have confidence in Valverde, Luis Suarez said the manager was not to blame and Guillermo Amor said the club had no intention of sacking Valverde.
Valverde brushed off talk about his future in his post-match press conference, while contradictory rumors have been floating about ever since the full-time whistle blew.
RAC1 reported straight after the match that Valverde was in a “delicate situation” at Barcelona and his future would be discussed during Monday’s meeting of the board of directors.
Yet Mundo Deportivo have reported his position has not been put in jeopardy by the defeat, Sport reckons he hasn’t lost the dressing room and Marca report president Josep Maria Bartomeu won’t sack him just yet.
The defeat does mean Barcelona have now won just one of their last five games and look far from convincing as we head towards a crucial part of the season, but it seems that for now at least Valverde is going nowhere.