Atletico Madrid 1-0 Barcelona (2-1 agg.): Atleti overpower as Barcelona crash out of Europe
Barcelona failed to reach the semi finals of the Champions League for the first time in seven years as they fell at the quarter-final stage to domestic rivals Atletico Madrid.
An early flourish from Atletico Madrid saw Koke net an early goal that Barcelona could never quite recover from, as Barcelona were eliminated at the quarter final stage by Atletico Madrid, who will progress to the semi-finals of Europe’s biggest club competition.
Any thoughts of Atletico Madrid coming into this game as the underdogs were quickly dispelled as the home side put on a blistering opening 15 minutes to leave Barcelona shell-shocked and quite unable to formulate any sort of response.
By the time Koke scored in the 6th minute, Adrian had already clanged a shot off the post. Atleti’s opener arrived after a fabulous move involving Villa and Raul Garcia presented Koke with a perfect chance to smash the ball in to put Atletico Madrid ahead on the night as well as on aggregate.
Villa could have scored once more moments later as he nearly pressured Pinto into giving the ball away, but the goalkeeper somehow managed to get the ball out of the danger area. Yet, it wasn’t long until Villa was harassing him again, this time hitting the post in the 11th minute.
Barcelona were completely sterile up until that point, and although they did have an opportunity to draw level in the 13th minute as Messi headed the ball marginally wide of the post, that chance materialized completely against the run of play and Atleti were well on top of them.
The Catalans were impotent in both defence and attack as Atleti battled for each and every ball. The home side were ahead both in goals and in possession during the initial stages of the match, with Barcelona barely getting a glimpse of the ball.
The goalpost was about the only thing preventing Barcelona from falling further behind, as it once again denied Villa in the 19th minute, his shot pinging back off the crossbar, much to the home fans’ frustration.
From that point on, Barcelona did not so much grow into the game as they did slow the pace, and as they began to gain more and more possession as the match wore on, the initial frenetic pace of the game began to ebb away.
Messi was once again presented with a chance to draw his side level, but could only fire wide as Neymar managed to maneuver himself around a horde of Atleti defenders to play a low cross into the box.
Barcelona started the second half off in a completely different manner, knowing it was do or die at that point, and they managed to put Atletico Madrid under huge amounts of pressure much as the home side did to them in the first half.
Crucially though, Barcelona did not convert that early spell of pressure into a goal. The did have their chances though, as the ball ended up on the roof of Atleti’s net in the 49th minute after a scramble in the box.
The hour mark saw Xavi put a header wide as he was left completely unmarked in the box, and only needed to guide the ball into the net.
Barcelona were looking more dangerous at that point and they began to push Atletico Madrid back. But although they were looking stronger, Barcelona’s attacking play left acres of room behind them that was begging to be exploited by Atleti on the counter.
Atleti almost made full use of that space in the 65th minute as Pinto produced a stunning save to deny Diego, who exploited that space on a counter. Pinto was in action again in the 69th minute to deny Gabi by sticking out a leg to divert the weak shot. Gabi would have rued his inability to score as Villa was all alone in the box and would have almost definitely put his side two goals to the good had his teammate managed to pick him out.
Mascherano nearly conceded a penalty kick in the 72nd minute as he appeared to have shoved Villa in the back well inside the 18 yard box, but referee Howard Webb deemed it a legal challenge and waved play on, much to the frustration of the home side.
Neymar had one of the best chances of the night in the 80th minute as he headed inches wide of the post from a cross put in by Alves.
Pinto delayed the inevitable as he saved from Rodriguez in the dying moments of the match as the home side looked to wrap things up.
Barcelona continued to poke and probe Atletico Madrid’s defence up until the end of the match, but ultimately, the home side held strong and saw themselves advance to the semi finals of the Champions League.
Both teams will be in action away from home in La Liga this weekend, with Atletico Madrid making a short trip across town to face Getafe, and Barcelona travelling south to face Granada.
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Barcelona
Referee: Howard Webb
Atletico Madrid XI: Courtois; Juanfran, Godín, Miranda, Filipe Luis; Tiago, Gabi, Koke, Raúl García; Adrián (62′), Villa (79′)
Subs: Diego Ribas (62′), Cebolla (79′)
Goals: Koke (4′)
Yellow Cards: N/A
Barcelona XI: Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta (72′); Messi, Cesc (61′), Neymar
Subs: Alexis (61′), Pedro (72′)
Yellow Cards: Busquets (17′), Alves (90′)