Barcelona will finish the weekend three points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win against Atlético Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano. Barça started well and scored early, and found a way to survive the final 70 minutes in the face of huge pressure from the home team. The Catalans showed character, made some huge defensive plays and had luck on their side, and won a crucial game on the road.
Barça came out with the clear intent of controlling as much possession as possible and limit the chances of an Atlético counter-attack. The Blaugrana put as many players as possible in the middle and passed the ball as much as they could, but it was tough to find spaces inside a tight Atleti defense and the first 20 minutes had very few interesting moments.
Then Pedri came out with a piece of individual magic as he went on a brilliant solo run past three defenders and found Gavi in the box, who quickly turned and set up Ousmane Dembélé for an excellent finish past Jan Oblak and the opening goal for the Catalans.
Going behind finally woke up a slow Atlético team that lacked a lot of intensity early on, and the crowd pushed them to start attacking with plenty of bodies and cause a whole lot of problems to a Barça defense that was very vulnerable in all aspects.
Atlético created at least four huge chances, two of them on set pieces, one after a long sequence of possession and one on the counter, and Barça’s defense was open on all four occasions. But a combination of bad finishing and one special save from Marc-André ter Stegen kept the Blaugrana from conceding, and they were relieved to hear the halftime whistle.
At the break, Barça were lucky to be ahead and needed to step up their level to survive the Atleti pressure that was surely coming in the second half.
Barça started the second half with a clear plan: give Atlético the ball, stay organized and not allow any clear chances. And their strategy mostly worked well as the Colchoneros had the ball and a few good opportunities on crosses and shots from distance, but nothing to truly trouble Ter Stegen in goal.
After weathering the early storm from the home team, Barça regained control of possession and started going forward trying to find a second, and Dembélé had a good chance to double his and the team’s tally with a one-on-one chance against Oblak but couldn’t hit the target.
As we reached the final 10 minutes it was all about preserving the lead as Barça looked to waste as much time as possible and run the clock out without conceding another chance, but things got very interesting in stoppage time when the referee gave straight red cards to Barça’s Ferran Torres and Atlético’s Stefan Savic after the two were entangled and grabbing each other’s necks for a long period and were sent off to the dressing rooms.
Both teams found themselves down to 10 men without the chance of making substitutions, and the game became even more wide open at the end as Atlético pushed everyone forward and left loads of space at the back.
The hosts created a giant chance deep into stoppage time when Ángel Correa found Antoine Griezmann all alone just five yards away from goal, but Ronald Araujo made a miraculous goal-line clearance to keep Barça in the lead. There was one more chance on a Griezmann free-kick from just outside the box, but the Frenchman’s effort deflected off the wall for a corner and Barça avoided any further trouble.
The final whistle came to end a thrilling affair in Madrid, and Barça can count themselves very lucky to get all three points in this one. They were outplayed for the last 70 minutes, needed some massive defensive interventions and a bit of luck, but championship teams win the tough ones away from home when they don’t play well. And Barça are once again three points clear at the top.
Atlético: Oblak; Molina, Savic, Giménez, Reinildo (Reguilón 81’); Llorente, Koke (Lemar 74’), Barrios (Kondogbia 65’), Carrasco (Morata 65’); Griezmann, Félix (Correa 74’)
Red Card: Savic (90+2’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde (Alonso 81’); Busquets (Roberto 81’), De Jong (Kessie 58’); Dembélé, Gavi (Raphinha 73’), Pedri; Fati (Ferran 58’)
Goal: Dembélé (22’)
Red Card: Ferran (90+2)