Barcelona will finish the weekend inside the La Liga Top 4 for the first time since September thanks to an epic 4-2 win over Atlético Madrid in the first game at Camp Nou in 2022. Barça played sublime football for 60 minutes and scored four goals, but had to survive the last half-hour with 10 men after Dani Alves was sent off in questionable fashion and found a way to hang on to a two-goal lead and take all three points against the defending champions on a memorable afternoon in Catalonia.
The Camp Nou was bouncing, as intense and excited for a Barcelona game as we’ve seen in a really long time. And the team clearly fed off the energy off the crowd and played a truly sensational first half, with exceptional attacking football and fantastic intensity off the ball.
They did go behind to start the game, with Yannick Carrasco finishing off a beautiful team move by Atlético with a strong shot into the bottom corner. But Barça equalized immediately thanks to a Goal of the Seaso contender by Jordi Alba, and from then on the Blaugrana were far and away the best team on the pitch.
Adama Traoré made an immediate impact on his debut, absolutely destroying left-back Mario Hermoso at every chance he got, and in one of those instances he played a gorgeous cross into the box and Gavi headed home the second to put Barça ahead. The home team never stopped attacking and kept suffocating the Colchoneros until they found a third goal, with Ronald Araujo scoring on the rebound after a Jan Oblak save to double Barça’s lead and further prove their superiority.
At halftime, the best 45 minutes of Barça’s season had them in great position to claim all three points but they needed to keep up the good work and finish the job in the second half.
Barça made a dream start to the second half with a fourth goal: Gavi and Frenkie De Jong made a nice one-two on the left wing, and Gavi’s low cross eventually found Dani Alves all alone on the edge of the box and the Brazilian fired a rocket into the bottom corner to score on his return to Camp Nou.
But Atlético didn’t give up: Diego Simeone made four substitutions in the first 10 minutes of the period and told his team to go for it, and Luis Suárez scored against his former club to give the visitors some hope with 30 minutes to go. The Colchoneros sensed some vulnerability in the Barça defense and really amped up the pressure, and the two-goal lead suddenly didn’t feel safe for the home team.
After a period of pressure from Atlético, Barça seemed to have weathered the storm but a hugely controversial refereeing decision changed the game: after the linesman was late to raise his flag when Luis Suárez was clearly offside, Dani Alves was given a straight red card by VAR for a stomp on Carrasco’s leg on a play that should never have counted.
Barça had to play the last 20 minutes with 10 men and the team was clearly nervous, and Atlético sent everyone forward sensing a real chance to come back in the game. The final minutes were absolutely wild, with Barça trying to hang on to their lead despite some really inconsistent refereeing and Atlético not giving up and playing on pure desperation.
All things considered, Barça remained quite calm and composed as they tried to keep possession as much as they could looking to run out the clock. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his debut and was instrumental in keeping the ball in the final minutes, always running after long passes and winning crucial free-kicks in the dying seconds.
The final whistle came after almost seven minutes of added time, and Barça’s biggest win of the season came against all odds despite other people’s best efforts to stop it. A wild, beautiful afternoon at Camp Nou and a giant confidence booster to start a big February. As Dani Alves would say, Good Crazy!
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Araujo, Piqué, Alba; Pedri (Nico 66’), Busquets, De Jong; Adama (Aubameyang 61’), Ferran, Gavi (Dest 71’)
Goals: Alba (10’), Gavi (21’), Araujo (43’), Alves (49’)
Red Card: Alves (70’)
Atlético: Oblak; Vrsaljko (Wass 46’), Savic, Giménez, Hermoso (Cunha 55’); Carrasco, De Paul, Koke (Herrera 76’), Lemar (Reinildo 55’), Félix (Correa 55’); Suárez
Goals: Carrasco (8’), Suárez (58’)