Barcelona had to dig deep at home to edge a nine man Atletico Madrid 2-1 in Saturday’s La Liga clash at the Camp Nou.
Filipe Luis and Diego Godin both saw red as Barcelona narrowly defeated Atletico Madrid to open up a three-point lead at on the La Liga log thanks to first half goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Jordi Alba who missed the 3-1 victory over Bilbao with a hamstring returned in place of Jeremy Mathieu as Claudio Bravo was also back in goal. Sergio Busquets came in for Thomas Vermaelen and Sergi Roberto’s berth was filled by Andres Iniesta. Birthday boy Arda Turan, however, was only a substitute against his former club.
Atleti flew out of the traps as they packed on the intensity, to the extent they were almost man-marking Barca’s defenders, and they took a deserved lead when a deep cross was met at the far post by a totally unmarked Koke who volleyed past Bravo for 1-0.
However, their good start quickly fizzled out, with Barcelona waking up to dominate possession, in turn forcing an equaliser on the half-hour mark through Lionel Messi, who turned home Jordi Alba’s pass after a silky build-up down the left.
The turnaround was then complete with seven minutes of the first half remaining, a long ball over the top expertly trapped by Luis Suarez, who sprang Atleti’s offside trap and subsequently fired an angled finish past Oblak.
Atlético began to lose their cool, and on the brink of halftime they were reduced to 10 men when Filipe Luis made a studs-up challenge on Messi, sending the Argentine sprawling on the ground in pain. Simeone had to make a change, opting to take off midfielder Gabi for defender Jesús Gámez.
Halftime was the perfect remedy for Atlético’s problems, and their response to start the second half was excellent. The Colchoneros were the better side and nearly pulled level in the 56th minute through Griezmann, but Bravo made a miracle save with his feet to deny the Frenchman.
But just when Atlético were making the Camp Nou uncomfortable for their host, a challenge from Godín on Suárez in the 65th minute resulted in a second yellow for the center-back, leaving Atlético with the near impossible task of trying to equalize in the final 25 minutes with just nine men. Still, Simeone’s men managed to pose a threat with two men down, keeping Barcelona’s defense on their toes but failed to find the equalizer.