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Barça twice led against Celta on Saturday but it ended 2-2. And the scenario was repeated on Tuesday night against Atlético Madrid at Camp Nou. An own goal and a 700th career goal for Leo Messi made it 1-0 and 2-1 to the defending champions, but two Saúl penalties meant two costly points have gone begging in a tense, gripping encounter.
Own goal and a repeated penalty
The game was lively from the very start, with Diego Costa in the thick of it from early on. His attempt to intercept a corner only made matters worse for his team as the ball deflected off his thigh and into his own net. A gift for FC Barcelona and after just 12 minutes they were already a goal to the good.
Costa would get a chance to redeem himself just five minutes later. Arturo Vidal tripped Yannick Carrasco in the box and didn’t protest the referee’s decision to point at the spot. Up stepped the former Chelsea striker…
Ter Stegen is turning into a masterful penalty saver, and he did it again! But for Atlético there was a reprieve. VAR had spotted that the German keeper had come off his line and the kick would be retaken. The correct decision by the rulebook, yes. But a harsh one all the same.
This time Saúl would be the taker. And this time the ball went in. The teams were back square.
It was developing into a gripping encounter. Barça had most of the ball and Messi had chance after chance… Riqui Puig was simply outstanding playing the full ninety minutes and defying his youth by playing such a commanding role in midfield.
But tonight was going to be about goals from the penalty spot.
The second half had barely begun when Felipe clipped Nelson Semedo on the edge of the area. Messi was the man to take it… surely also knowing that if it went in it would be the 700th of his professional career – and against the very same keeper he beat to score the 600th, Jan Oblak.
And albeit a spot kick, he managed to make sure it was one to remember, brilliantly opting for the cheeky Panenka option to put Barça back in command.
But the red-and-whites would again get back level, and it came from the third penalty of the night.
This time Semedo was on the delivering end, albeit with no sign of intention. And like Atlético’s first penalty, it was Carrasco who went down. Saúl was again the taker… Ter Stegen frustratingly managed to get both hands to the ball but the ball still slipped in off the post.
We were back where we started again and the remaining half hour was going to be a very tense affair indeed. Barça chasing three points to go back to the top of the league table, Atlético chasing what, incredibly, would have been their first league win against the Catalans in the Diego Simeone era.
Both sides had chances, the action was frenetic. Arturo came closest. So close it looked like it was in on TV.
It was agonising to watch. Just one goal… one goal… But it wouldn’t come and for the second game in a row, Barça have led twice but ended up drawing 2-2.
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