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Atlético gave Barca the space to play


Barca march on having won ‘the other Clásico’ on an afternoon when Atlético were the real stars of the show - with the Madrid side at the heart of all the game’s best and worst moments. Best of all were their starts to both halves, putting Barca through the wringer, getting their reward early on through Koke (0-1) and then rattling their hosts again after the break, when Griezmann’s effort was miraculously kept out by Bravo – the Chilean channeling his inner Casillas and thus preventing a 2-2 equaliser. The low point came because they sat back too much after taking the lead and then even more so following Filipe Luis and Godin’s dismissals, which effectively ruined any chances the team had of getting a good result.

Barcelona never shifted out of first gear. When Atlético put them under pressure, they looked spent. When the visitors eased off, they were able to get going. Luis Enrique’s men scored two fantastic goals, courtesy of the quality they possess up front, but they look exhausted. This is the stage of the season when teams get leggy, making these three points - won on an off day - all the more valuable, and also making their progress in the Copa del Rey even more of an achievement. They failed to kill off yesterday’s match despite playing against nine men for a large chunk of the second half, and were even made to sweat it out in the 88th minute after conceding a free kick just outside their box, for which Oblak made the long trip up the pitch into enemy territory. But they won and can now enjoy some breathing room at the summit of La Liga.

From Atlético’s perspective, the game served to establish Carrasco, who was excellent on the grandest of stages and in such a wide position. Simeone’s charges practically put their hearts on the line in their bid to win the La Liga title. On the flipside, the performance was somewhat maligned by Filipe Luis and Godin, who did so much good you could almost forgive them. However, the Brazilian’s flagrant kick on Messi’s knee and Godin’s (already on a booking) mad sliding tackle on Luis Suárez were cheap, reckless and unnecessary challenges, committed with no immediate danger to worry about. The team couldn’t have expected to finish any better than they did following those two sendings off which handed Barca the initiative.


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