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Messi scored the winner on an intense evening at the Camp Nou / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Ten days before this Spanish Cup quarter final first leg, Barça danced around Atlético to win 3-1 in La Liga. But Wednesday night’s fixture was more reminiscent of the six meetings between the sides last season. For 83 minutes, the two teams were locked in an intense battle, with their defences shining more than their frontmen. But then the deadlock was finally broken and Barça could go on to celebrate a second consecutive victory against the Liga champions.

Intense stuff

[[DES_1]]It may have been a bitterly cold evening in Barcelona, but the home side took no time at all to warm up their engine. However, despite dominating the play, other than a couple of chances for Messi and Neymar, there was little to trouble Atlético’s typically solid defence. As the half progressed, the visitors started showing considerably more intent, to the extent that they actually outshot Barça 7 to 4 in the first 45 minutes. A long-range attempt from Arda and a Griezmann header from a corner were the most dangerous of those chances.

Frustrated efforts

Ten minutes before the break, Luis Suárez found himself ideally positioned but sent the ball over the bar. The fans in the terraces started chanting his name. It was their way of reassuring the Uruguayan that they know it won’t be long before he’s putting away chances like that with ease.

The second half started just like the first. Barça dominated the possession, while Atlético had reverted to concentrating almost all of their efforts on defending. Slovenian keeper Oblak produced a fine save to deny Iniesta after 74 minutes, but little else of note happened. Frustration set in, and both Suárez and Mascherano were booked for expressing their discontent with refereeing decisions.

Penalty drama

The game-changing moment came in the 83rd minute. Messi thundered a free kick into the Atlético wall and in the scramble that ensued, Juanfran brought down Busquets. The referee pointed straight at the spot. Messi stepped up to take the penalty, and although Oblak saved it, the Argentinian pounced on the rebound and the Camp Nou could finally celebrate a thoroughly deserved goal.

Messi came close to scoring a second deep into injury time when his free-kick skimmed over the bar. But 1-0 is a result that Barça can feel confident about as they go into next week’s second first leg, with the all-important bonus that Atlético will have no away goals to defend.

Quarter final first leg results

Málaga CF 0-0 Athletic Bilbao

RCD Espanyol v Sevilla FC (Thurs)

FC Barcelona 1-0 Atlético Madrid

Villarreal 1-0 Getafe CF


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