Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez turn around early deficit as Barça open up 3-point lead at the top of the table
Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez both scored before halftime to turn around an early one-goal deficit and lead FC Barcelona to a 2–1 La Liga triumph over nine-man Atlético Madrid on Saturday afternoon at Camp Nou.
Koke put the Colchoneros up in the 10th minute on Saturday, but Barça completed their comeback well before the visitors had not one, but two players dismissed.
Filipe Luis was shown a straight red card one minute before the intermission and Diego Godín picked up his second caution of the day in the 65th but, by then, the damage had been done.
The victory gives the Catalans some breathing room at the top of the La Liga table. Before the game, Barça and Atlético had been even on points, with Barça in first on goal differential. FCB still have a game in hand.
FC Barcelona also extend their winning streak to 26 games across all competitions. They have not lost since 3 October.
Atlético, meanwhile drop their second straight game after seeing an eight-game winning streak snapped in Wednesday’s loss to Celta that knocked them out of the Copa del Rey. They remain winless at Camp Nou in La Liga since 2006 and have now lost on eight of their last nine visits, the only draw coming on the final day of the 2014 season that allowed them to edge out Barça for the league title.
The victory is FCB’s second of the season in two tries over Atlético. Barça won their first meeting this season, 2–1 at the Calderón back on 12 September.
FC Barcelona fell behind early for the second straight game when Koke volleyed a cross from Yannick Ferreira Carrasco past goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to put Atlético up 1–0 in the 10th minute. Carrasco took advantage of a Barça turnover deep in their own territory and beat Jordi Alba along the byline before feeding Koke, who was unmarked two steps behind the penalty spot.
"It was difficult for us to get into the game, but it served to wake us up," FC Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique said after the game.
Messi knotted the game up at 1–1 on the stroke of 30 minutes when he sliced through the Atlético area to slot in from close-range. Full-back Jordi Alba got the assist when Neymar sprung him loose on the left wing. Alba slid a pass between a pair of defenders to find the streaking Messi, who scored his 12th league goal this season and 21st overall.
Suárez put Barça into the lead eight minutes later after taking a perfectly placed through ball from Dani Alves and nutmegging Atlético goalkeeper Jan Oblak for his league-leading 19th goal of the season and team-leading 31st overall. Atlético defender Gabi had Suárez well-covered on the play, but the Barça striker, as he does so often, brilliantly used his body to win position inside and shield the ball before getting off the shot.
The action at both ends of the pitch was a welcome spectacle for the season-high 94,990 spectators who came out to Camp Nou to witness the top two teams in La Liga battle it out in what could very well end up being a decisive battle in the race for the title.
The atmosphere turned momentarily nasty in the 44th minute when Atlético full-back Filipe Luis was dismissed with a straight red card after a reckless boot to Messi's knee.
With Atlético down a goal and a man to start the second half, they had to be wondering what else could go wrong.
The answer to that came in the 65th, when Godín picked up his second yellow card of the day for a late tackle that completely upended Suárez, putting Atlético down to nine men with 25 minutes still to play.
Arda Turan — playing against his ex-team for the first time — and Alves both had chances to put the game away with nearly identical shots on 77 and 79 minutes, respectively, but with Cholo Simeone’s Atlético fighting till the end, Barça were unable to extend their lead.
Bravo made several key stops to preserve the victory. "It was a tough game beacuse they were very strong, but we came out on top in the duel and that is thanks to our hard work during the week," he said.