Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Atletico Madrid 0-3 Barcelona: Talking points as Catalan storm hits Spanish capital

Veselin Trajkovic in Editorial, La Liga 18 Mar 2024

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In some style, Barcelona landed a crucial victory over Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday evening, with Joao Felix dealing another blow to his parent club in the 38th minute, Robert Lewandowski extending his team’s lead in the 47th, and Fermin Lopez setting the final score in the 65th.

And just as it seemed Atletico’s evening could not have gone worse, right at the end, Nahuel Molina earned a straight red card for an obvious foul on Vitor Roque, which he committed deliberately as the last man in defence to prevent a fourth goal for the visitors.

On the other hand, Barcelona also had a red card shown but to head coach Xavi Hernandez in the 42nd minute, for dissent.

The game

Interestingly enough, Atletico opened the game well and were arguably the better team for the first half an hour. They came really close to breaking the deadlock after less than seven minutes, as Rodrigo de Paul pounced on a loose pass from Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and employed Pablo Barrios, whose effort from just outside the box missed the top corner by a few inches. Alvaro Morata also had a good chance in the 22nd minute, but Pau Cubarsi, the Barcelona centre-back who turned 17 two months ago, prevented him from scoring.

Barcelona took the lead from practically the first real chance they had. It was Lewandowski who pulled out wide before squaring it for Felix, and the Atletico loanee had no difficulty in putting it into the back of the net from around six yards, much to the annoyance of the home fans.

Even though his teammates encouraged him to celebrate, Felix didn’t seem too keen, but it did nothing to calm the crowd in the stands of the Wanda Metropolitano.

Morata had another chance to equalize two minutes before the break, but his volley from just inside the box went over the bar.

Lewandowski doubled Barcelona’s lead two minutes after the restart with a fantastic finish, worthy of such a proven goalscorer. Atletico came close again in the 53rd minute, but it was Ter Stegen’s turn to prove his class again as he made a pair of sublime saves, first to deny Marcos Llorente’s volley, and then a rebound from close range from Memphis Depay, former Barcelona forward who had come on to replace Morata at halftime.

Lewandowski wasted a good opportunity to score again, a couple of minutes before his pin-point cross met the head of Fermin, unmarked at six yards, and the young midfielder made it 0-3.

Even with all three Barcelona goals counted, the best chance of the game fell to Atletico substitute Saul Niguez five minutes from time. Angel Correa’s shot from a tight angle rebounded off a Barcelona defender and found him at six yards, unmarked, with Ter Stegen already beaten, but Niguez, who doesn’t seem able to get much right this season, smashed it considerably wide.

Barcelona dominated the ball for the larger part with 60% of possession, and though Atletico took more shots (13-9), the Catalans were more accurate (3-5 shots on target). But probably the most interesting piece of stats from this game was the fact that the Atletico attackers were caught offside eight times, and their Barcelona counterparts not even once.

All in all, Barcelona deserved their victory, though the scoreline could’ve perhaps been a little kinder to Atletico Madrid.

The incredible La Masia

The famous academy at Barcelona has been producing stars of the game for a very long time, and this game was another example of fine teenage players schooled there shining in big games.

With the likes of Marcos Alonso and Andreas Christensen to choose from, it was a bit of a surprise to see Xavi name Cubarsi and Hector Fort, both 17, in his starting back line, particularly considering the experience of Alvaro Morata to contend with. However, both youngsters performed admirably, never looking out of their depth, just like Fermin (20).

There’s really no need to speak of Lamine Yamal in that aspect; the youngest of the lot at 16, and valued at €60 million by Transfermarkt, the winger has seven goals and six assists in 39 appearances for Xavi’s side this season.

Barcelona may be in financial turmoil, but as long as they keep producing this kind of talent, they’ll always be contending for the biggest trophies out there.

Robert Lewandowski

At a very different stage of his career, Lewandowski is still one of the best attacking players on the planet at the age of 35. He was simply too much for the likes of Stefan Savic and Axel Witsel to deal with, and the goal and two assists from this game have taken his numbers to 20 and nine, in 39 matches across all competitions for Barcelona.

Adding a valuable amount of experience to Xavi’s side, along with Ter Stegen and Ilkay Gundogan, the Poland captain is a model professional, a perfect player to be setting examples for the youngsters coming through the academy ranks, though he himself obviously isn’t its product.

The aftermath

This triumph has propelled Barcelona to second place in the La Liga standings, taking advantage of Girona losing to Getafe the previous day to overtake the surprise team of the season and maintain a chance, albeit a slim one, of winning the title at the end.

At the moment, Real Madrid lead the way with 72 points. Barcelona have 64, and Girona 62, followed by Athletic Bilbao on 56. Atletico have now fallen out of the top four, sitting fifth with 55 points.

Looking ahead, Diego Simeone’s side have a potentially tricky trip to Villarreal to deal with, before taking on Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their clash in the Champions League quarterfinals. For Barcelona, it’s Paris Saint-Germain at the same stage of the same competition, but before that, they must make sure they don’t slip up at home against Las Palmas.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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