Sunday, 31 January 2016

Barcelona took control of the La Liga title race as
goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez inspired a
come from behind 2-1 win against nine-man
Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Koke handed the visitors a deserved early lead, but
Barca turned the game thanks to two goals in eight
minutes before the break through Messi and
Suarez.
Atletico's hopes of salvaging a point were then
ruined as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin were sent-off
for rash challenges either side of half-time.
Victory takes Barca three points clear of Atletico at
the top of the table - having also played a game
less - and seven points clear of third-placed Real
Madrid, who host Espanyol on Sunday.
The clash between La Liga's top two pitted
Europe's most feared attack against its strongest
defence, but it was Atletico who started on the front
foot.
Saul Niguez's dipping effort was brilliantly turned
over by Claudio Bravo after just two minutes.
However, another Niguez burst provided the
opening goal eight minutes later when his cross
from the right just evaded Antoine Griezmann and
was slotted home at the far post by Koke.
Atletico could even have had a more commanding
lead as Augusto Fernandez flashed a shot inches
wide with Barca struggling to get a foothold in the
game.
The European champions had been outplayed by
Malaga and Athletic Bilbao in the first-half of their
previous two games before reacting after the break,
but they clicked into gear in the final 15 minutes of
the first-half to turn the game on its head.
Suarez fired a warning shot that Jan Oblak got
down well to save at his near post.
However, the Slovenian's 483-minute run without
conceding was ended when Jordi Alba showed
great composure to pull a low cross into Messi's
path to smash home.
Atletico were then caught uncharacteristically flat-
footed as Dani Alves's long ball over the top picked
out Suarez, who showed great strength to hold off
compatriot Jose Maria Gimenez, before slotting
between Oblak's legs.
The game looked over as a contest a minute before
the break when Luis was sent-off for high, studs-
up, challenge on Messi inside the Barcelona half.
Yet, despite their numerical disadvantage, Atletico
still started the second period the better.
Yannick Carrasco's lung-bursting run was snuffed
out at the last hurdle by Gerard Pique.
The Belgian then produced a fine cross for
Griezmann, but his acrobatic effort from point-
blank range was brilliantly saved by Bravo.
Atletico's resistance was undone by their own
stupidity again 25 minutes from time, though, as
Godin lunged in on Suarez and was rightly shown a
second yellow card.
Barca then rubbed salt into the visitors' wounds by
introducing former Atletico midfielder Arda Turan for
Ivan Rakitic and the Turkish international was
inches away from his first goal since swapping the
Spanish capital for the Camp Nou when his shot
flew just wide of the far post.
And a horrible day for Diego Simeone's men was
rounded off when Fernandez had to be stretchered
from the field with what looked like a serious knee
injury 15 minutes from time.

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