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FC Barcelona have gone three points clear at the top of the Liga table, and they have done it at one of the hardest places to get points in this competition. Games between the Catalans and Atlético Madrid are always gripping, feisty affairs, and this one was no exception, eventually decided by a solitary goal tucked away by Ousmane Dembélé midway through the first half.
Xavi had promised that a win at the Metropolitano was going to be a firm ‘thump on the table’ and that is precisely what this game delivered. Following Real Madrid’s defeat the day before, the championship race is very much in Barça’s hands.
Dembélé does the business
Missing both Lewandowski and Jordi Alba to suspension, Barça had been playing most of the football and were extremely good value for their 22nd minutes lead. Pedri and Gavi were superlative in the build-up, and Dembélé put himself in the perfect position to finish off a splendid move.
It was just over three years since Barça had last scored at the Metropolitano, and Pedri very nearly made it two just moments later.
But Atlético eventually found a strong response to going behind, and for the remainder of the first half almost all of the chances were red-and-white. Ter Stegen’s save to prevent the pink-haired Griezmann from scoring against his former club was perhaps the biggest moment, but Barça endured the onslaught and still led 1-0 at the break.
Dembélé had matched Griezmann as the second player this season to have amassed both five goals and five assists, and the two Frenchmen showed why that was by being perhaps the two most active players of the second half.
It looked like Barça had finally put the game to bed when Ferran Torres scored, but the flag was up for offside. Atlético were still in this game and kept threatening right until the end.
It was as physical and intense as this fixture has typically been in recent years, but Barça were dealing with everything with superb professionalism, keeping it serious and ensuring that the constant Atlético pressure ultimately came to nothing.
Matters got especially heated in the final minutes, with Savic and Ferran Torres both red carded following a somewhat bizarre wrestling contest.
The game was utterly alive now. And Atlético had it in injury time…
Ronald Araujo! What a block right on the goal-line! It had looked like a certain goal, and the home fans were already midway through their celebratory screams... but a moment of defensive brilliance from the Uruguayan meant that instead of coming out of this game with a point, Barça were returning to the Spotify Camp Nou with all three.
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