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FC Barcelona recovered spectacularly from a disappointing start, and the cause was boosted by two Atlético players quite unnecessarily getting themselves sent off. Punters in the bars of Barcelona and Madrid have plenty to talk about this evening.
First half flashback
Although Barça had had 70% of the possession in the first twenty minutes, Atlético got the early chances and probably deserved to be 1-0 up when Koke pounced on some sloppy defending to score.
But even when they’re not at the best, you can always rely on Barça to pull something out of the bag. Messi had barely intervened before he composedly slotted away an equaliser, and the way Luis Suárez tucked home that fantastic long pass from Alves was sheer class. Bang, bang ... and suddenly Barça were in front and on course to repeat the 2-1 comeback win at the Calderón.
Red card madness
What was Filipe Luis playing at? The normally cool-headed Brazilian was immediately reprimanded by his international colleague Neymar for an outrageous studs-up tackle on Messi.
Luis Enrique was understandably enraged and the referee had no option but to produce a direct red card. Fortunately, the only serious damage caused by the incident was to Atlético’s chances of mounting a comeback with a man less.
And then there were nine
Atlético’s self-destruct button was pressed a second time when Godín, already on a yellow, got his marching orders for a slide tackle on his compatriot Suárez. It was reckless, but also pointless, for the ball was nowhere near the danger area.
But all credit has to go to the visitors for managing to hold on despite their numerical inferiority. Barça were unable to kill off the game and had it not been for two foolish red cards, this strange game might have unfolded very differently.
If there was one standout performer for Barça today, then it was probably goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. He was as solid as a rock between the posts, and the save from Saúl Níguez after just five minutes was poetry in motion.
And maybe it was more luck than judgement, but his outstretched foot managed to get in the way of what looked to be a certain equaliser for Antoine Griezmann in the second half. A great display from the Chilean.
Huge step forward
Luis Enrique played down the importance of today’s game, but commentators in the world’s press seem to believe this win was worth half the Liga title. Atlético were set to go three points clear at the top of the table when they led 1-0. Instead it’s the Catalans who have that honour, plus a better head-to-head record with respect to their nearest rivals and a game in hand.
And the remaining fixture list is pleasantly Barça-friendly. FCB have already played away to all of the top eight sides apart from Villarreal and Eibar.
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