Barcelona have gained a valuable lead in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night.
An action-packed encounter offered plenty of entertainment for the anticipating home crowd, who were eager to see whether their team will be able to bounce back from the Saturday’s El Clasico loss.
It did not start well for the Catalans though.
Despite displaying possession football in the opening stages of the match, Barcelona’s probes in the Atletico Madrid half of the field only met the brick wall of Rojiblancos defences.
The visitors kept their tight shape through the first half as Barcelona pounced through Lionel Messi and Neymar, who both had a brilliant chance apiece wasted in front of Oblak’s goal.
Lionel Messi’s first-time shot from the edge of the box went terribly wide of Atletico’s goal, while Neymar failed to head home from close range after meeting a wonderful cross from Alves.
Visitors woke up at the half-hour mark when Antoine Griezmann came into the first half-chance for Atletico with an effort which forced Ter Stegen to force the ball wide off the post.
Barcelona ignored the warning signs and were punished only a couple of minutes later as Atletico made the breakthrough with Fernando Torres meeting a super pass behind the lines from Koke. Terrible positioning from Barcelona defenders let Torres put in a clinical finish and slot it home to put his team one up.
It was Fernando Torres’ first Champions League goal since 2014 and his 11th against Barcelona, but the experienced Spanish international went from hero to zero in just a matter of minutes.
Having already picked a yellow card earlier in the game, Fernando Torres was booked again in the 35th minute of the game for a reckless tackle on Sergio Busquets leaving his team in utterly undermined position.
Atletico Madrid managed to keep their cool until the end of the half as Barcelona looked rather impotent upfront and no different to lethargic selves they were against Real Madrid.
On course to lose his first game to Atletico Madrid after six consecutive wins, Luis Enrique must have held a hell of a half-time talk.
Barcelona players, albeit a man up on the pitch, came out of the tunnel a changed team.
Off to a flying start to the second half, Barcelona hit hard immediately with Messi producing a splendid over-head kick after a ball from Neymar, but his effort went just wide of the post.
Minutes later, Neymar found himself enough space to place a wonderful shot towards Oblak’s goal with crossbar preventing the Brazilian from getting his name on the scoresheet.
Chances were hard to count as Barcelona went all force on Atletico Madrid eager to break the deadlock as early as possible. Rakitic found Neymar in the box and the Brazilian went for the shot but Oblak was well positioned for a comfortable save.
Another fine intervention from Atletico Madrid in 57th minute when Oblak got down to stop Messi in his run towards the goal.
Neymar and Messi kept pushing and had a couple of more great chances to find the back of the net, but it was Luis Suarez who stole all the glory as he had a late waking up in the closing stages of the match.
After going relatively silent for the good 60 minutes, Uruguay striker was at the right place in the right time to turn Alba’s low shot into the back of the net from close range and put Barcelona back on terms with Atletico Madrid.
It was the moment Barcelona were waiting for against the ten-man Atletico as pressure piled up.
Luis Enrique ordered his team to go full strength in the closing stages of the game and Barca got the break they needed just ten minutes later, in the 74th minute of the match.
Luis Suarez played a great ball to the right for Dani Alves who returns it to Uruguay striker for a thumping header past Oblak.
It was Suarez’s 45 goal in as many games this season as Barcelona frontman bagged a brace for his 8th goal in the competition this season.
Barcelona have managed to bounce back from El Clasico defeat and return to winning ways after two-game winless mini-run, but it has to be noted that Fernando Torres’ dismissal was the pivotal moment in the match as Barcelona once again struggled to make their ground for good part of the proceedings.
The 2-1 result promises great entertainment in the return leg at Vicente Calderon as the tie remains open.
BARCELONA: ter Stegen 6.5 – Alves 7, Pique 6.5, Mascherano 6, Alba 7 – Rakitic 6.5 (Rafinha 6.5), Busquets 7 (Roberto 6), Iniesta 7 (Turan 6) – Messi 6.5, Suarez 7.5, Neymar 7.
Unused subs: Bartra, Bravo, El Haddadi, Vermaelen.
ATLETICO MADRID: Oblak 6.5 – Juanfran 6.5, Hernandez 7, Godin 7.5, Filipe Luis 7 – Koke 6.5, Gabi 7, Niguez 6.5 (Correa 6) – Griezmann 7 – Carrasco 6.5 (Fernandez 6.5) – Torres 5.
Unused subs: Gamez, Kranevitter, Moya, Vietto.
REFEREE: Felix Brych
Other results this evening
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