Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Barcelona Beat 10 man Atletico

Suarez scores against Atleti
Luis Suárez scored two second-half goals to lead Barcelona to a 2-1 comeback victory over 10-man Atlético Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Fernando Torres opened the scoring in the 25th minute but quickly went from hero to villain for Atlético when two reckless tackles saw him sent off in the 35th minute.

Atlético resisted the defending champions’ push for an equaliser until Suárez scored an opportunistic goal in the 63rd minute.

Suárez put Barcelona ahead after 74 minutes when he played Dani Alves wide before directing the Brazil defender’s cross past goalkeeper Jan Oblak with an unstoppable header.

The win comes three days after Real Madrid ended Barcelona’s Spanish record 39-match unbeaten streak with a 2-1 win at Camp Nou.

The hosts' run of six straight wins against the Rojiblancos was in doubt when Fernando Torres netted his first UEFA Champions League goal for Atleti, but a red card for the striker soon after tilted the balance their way. Suárez tapped in an equaliser just after the hour before heading in the first-leg winner, but this quarter-final tie is far from over.

The first half was all about Torres: the good, the bad and the ugly. His goal was a peach, running through a gaping hole in the Barcelona back line and collecting Koke's lovely dinked pass before firing nervelessly between the onrushing Marc-André ter Stegen's legs.

A clumsy yellow card soon followed but that swinging arm looked graceful compared to the ungainly tackle on Sergio Busquets that earned a second booking. There were still ten minutes of the first half remaining yet Barcelona, seeking redemption after Saturday's home loss to Real Madrid, struggled to make inroads.

They had had their chances, with Neymar and Lionel Messi both passing up openings they might ordinarily have snapped up, but the home side were blunted. Luis Enrique must have spent the interval with a whetstone because as the second period got under way his players were razor-sharp.

With the tempo ratcheted up, Neymar curled an shot against the bar and Filipe Luís, Juanfran and Diego Godín all made desperate last-ditch challenges. Messi sent an acrobatic effort centimetres wide and finally Suárez found a way through, deflecting in Jordi Alba's volley.

A second duly followed, a header to complete a lovely move of one-touch football, yet Atlético restricted the damage and this tie is still in the balance.

The brains of the visiting team, midfielder Koke played superbly in a first half in which Ter Stegen's brilliant save from Antoine Griezmann kept the holders alive. But after Atleti went down to ten, the power and irresistibility of the home side took over, Andrés Iniesta their ever tireless and nerveless orchestrator. Meanwhile Suárez, as he did here against Bayer Leverkusen and Arsenal, proved that having a striker for whom the goalmouth is magnetic is the difference between winning and losing.

Most teams struggle to cope against Barcelona with 11 men, but for the second time in little more than two months Atlético played at the Camp Nou with numerical inferiority. That they threatened with nine men in January's Liga meeting, and with ten here, is testimony to their tactical nous, fitness and collective fortitude. And if their Herculean efforts earned little moments of fortune in keeping the score down, perhaps it is evidence of the old refrain that 'the harder I work the luckier I get'.

Part of the allure of this competition is that no club has successfully defended the UEFA Champions League title. 

This quarter-final is still open and what the first leg made clear is that the distance between the sides, even after so many Atlético defeats, is paper-thin. 

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