Barcelona knocked out of the Champions League 2015/16 by Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid produced a night to remember at the Calderón as two goals from Antoine Griezmann sentenced the holders to a quarter-final exit.
It was the loudest they've been this season. A cauldron at the Calderón. Los colchoneros turned up the volume and were rewarded with a semi-final berth at the expense of a Barcelona football club that looked untouchable just two weeks ago. 39 games unbeaten, in fact, until Real Madrid laid onslaught to the odds and ended that run at Camp Nou on April 2.
The Catalans have now won one in their last five and lost three of their last four, a mini-slump that has cost them the Champions League and put their La Liga retention in jeopardy.
This match was as much about Atleti being brilliant as it was about an uncharacteristic Barça though, it was clear from early on that Simeone had got it right - tactically and in his team selection.
Carrasco was chosen for his ball-carrying, pace, and appetite to work back, Saúl for his box-to-box ability and Griezmann worked his magic in between the energy and industry of his two younger supporting actors.
Atleti came out at the start of the game like they'd been fired out of a circus cannon, chomping at Barça's heels, biting their ankles, and the usual snap in the visitors' passing was missing, their customary craving to pass teams to death and carve them open suddenly traded for tame possession-based passing - Barcelona playing for time after 15 minutes?
Atleti refused to chase them about in their own area after their initial burst calmed and the adrenaline subsided, and Barça had little stomach to pass it forward, it was like watching an infuriating chess player who moves a piece, keeps his finger on it for minutes, furrows his brow before moving it back to its original position.
For a few minutes it looked like this Simpsons soccer parody:
Gabi had the first clear chance after 3 minutes but swung an ungainly left foot at it, Griezmann glanced Felipe's cross into Stegen's hands and Carrasco ran so fast on 10' that he was technically in the future, his cross way ahead of its time.
Messi's presence was glaringly obvious by its absence, another anonymous display from this team's talismanic leader. Fatigue? Off-pitch concerns? The Panama papers? Whatever it is, Messi does not look like Messi. Maybe 'What's happened to Barcelona?' and 'What's happened to Messi?' are actually the same question.
In fact the best thing he did in the first 25 minutes was to track down the streaking Yannick Carrasco deep into his own half to win the ball back, chasing him down like the groundsman's dog who won't leave you alone.
On 36' came the game's most beautiful moment, an exquisite outside-of-the left boot cross from Saúl Ñiguez, a perfectly arced piece of performance symmetry. Griezmann's header wasn't bad either. 1-0 sent the Calderón crazy.
A different Barcelona had to come out in the second half if they were to turn it around, but on 48' Alves shanked a cross out of reach and out of play and Piqué screamed at the sky: Individually out of tune, collectively out of sync.
The blaugranas desperately needed to score, but Atleti looked much more likely to. Finally the chances started to come after about 60 minutes, Neymar's cross cleared by a goal-saving captain's challenge by Gabi. Oblak's positioning was impeccable time and time again.
Simeone could feel Barça getting the upper hand and started doing that thing he does, waving his arms about like an air traffic controller who's made a terrible mistake.
Suarez looked certain to score moments later, but only succeeded in connecting with Godín's face. A shiner that the Uruguayan will wear with pride.
With Atleti fans biting their nails down to bloody, boney stumps, Felipe suddenly won the ball near his own box, carried the length of the field beating one here, nutmegging another there, ("he never did that for us" muttered Chelsea fans) and his cross was handled deliberately by Iniesta.
Iniesta should have seen red in his 17th Champions League quarter-final, his face said he knew it too, but the ref showed him a merciful yellow.
Antoine Griezmann put the penalty low to Stegen's left and suddenly Barça had to score just to take the tie to extra-time.
The ref was surrounded by a frenzied fury of Catalan colours on 91' when Iniesta's intended cross hit Gabi's hand inside the box, but a free was awarded outside the box. Messi's effort whistled wide and Barcelona were out of the Champions League.
Elation was painted red and white with the final whistle on 96'. A massive night for los rojiblancos, who now lie three points behind Barcelona in La Liga and advance to the final four on Europe's most sparkling stage.
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