Match Report: Atlético Madrid 1 FC Barcelona 0 (Atlético win 2-1 on aggregate)

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Barça Fabregas Messi 2014It wasn’t to be. After reaching the Champions League for six successive seasons Barça crashed out at the quarter-final stage tonight to Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid. Following last week’s 1-1 draw in the first leg at Camp Nou Barça needed to score at least once on the night but there was no coming back after Koke had fired Atlético into an early lead. The home team might have finished off the tie in the first twenty minutes tonight but three times the woodwork saved Barça. The 1-0 scoreline offered Barça the chance to recover but Atlético defended in numbers to hold on for a deserved victory.

Both teams lined up as expected with Tata Martino placing Leo Messi on the right of attack and Neymar on the left with Cesc Fabregas given the false nine role, while Simeone brought in Raul Garcia and Adrian Lopez for the injured Arda Turan and Diego Costa. Martino’s tactical changes proved to be largely ineffective with only Neymar benefiting from moving back to the left. Messi drifted inside but was rarely seen and only once, in the third minute, did he cut in from the right past Filipe but his shot went well over.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Barça koke goal 2014Meanwhile, Atlético’s direct style put Barça defence under immediate pressure. Raul Garcia didn’t think twice when receiving Juanfran’s throw-in, hitting a 30-yard shot narrowly over. Then in the fifth minute Adrian broke into the area and cracked a shot against the post, Barça failed to clear the ball, Koke gave it to Villa who got the better of Bartra to send in a cross from the left, Adrian rose above Alba at the far post to head the ball back across goal and Koke arrived to stab the ball home.

Barça were shocked and Atlético went for the kill. Whether it was Busquets getting caught in possession, Alves failing to clear or Pinto nearly getting robbed by Adrian, Barça were looking a mess. Atlético came close to a second in the 11th minute when Koke robbed Busquets and Villa took advantage of the space between Alves and Bartra but he fired his shot against the post. Eight minutes later, Raul Garcia headed a pass into the area and this time Villa was again denied a goal against his ex-team-mates by the crossbar.

There were some glimmers of hope for Barça. Neymar was looking up to the challenge and he caused Juanfran a few problems on the left. On the other flank Alves was tireless but he generally had a poor game, losing out to the magnificent Koke every time. The Brazilian full-back managed one decent cross early on but Messi headed wide. Then after a sublime nutmeg from Neymar on Tiago in the 24nd minute, Messi hit another chance off target.

Despite the very strong start from Atlético there was the feeling that Barça had survived intact. There was still a long time to go and Atlético began to sit deeper and defend in numbers. Barça began to play more in the Atlético half but there was little seen from Xavi and Messi. Iniesta was more active, darting inside and out, but even he was guilty of allowing the ball to roll under his foot for a throw.

There was some hope before the game that Atlético’s style of playing to the limit might lead to their players getting booked and perhaps they might end up with a player sent off. However, English referee Howard Webb, after booking Busquets in the 18th minute, decided to keep his cards in his pocket until the dying minutes of the game, showing a particularly lenient reaction after a hack by Raul Garcia on Neymar. With Atlético often pulling all ten outfield players back there was little penetration now from the visitors. The first half ended with more refereeing controversy as first Atlético appealed for a penalty after Mascherano made minor contact before Adrian’s exaggerated fall, then twice in a minute at the other end Fabregas went down, first there seemed to be contact from Godin, and then as the Barça man went for a cross Raul Garcia appeared briefly to hold his shirt.

With 45 minutes remaining the tie was still there for the taking and Barça began the second half looking better. In the 48th minute Xavi and Messi came to life to combine through the middle, Xavi slipped the pass in for Neymar but Courtois came out brilliantly to dive at the Brazilian’s feet and knock the ball away, Messi, following up, received the ball on his right-foot and couldn’t find a shot, the ball came to Alves who crossed from the right, but despite Courtois falling backwards the keeper still managed to prevent Xavi from finishing from close range.

Atlético were getting pinned back and despite the packed defence it seemed improbable that they could hold out like this for the rest of the half. Barça played it patiently, trying to work the ball from side to side but with little penetration. The next chance came from another Alves cross in the 59th minute but Xavi could only get a slight contact on his header and the ball went wide.

Martino called for Alexis to replace Fabregas which allowed Messi to move to the middle but Simeone reacted by taking off the tiring Adrian and bringing on the midfielder Diego Ribas. The changes helped Atlético to break out more and just three minutes after coming on Diego had got the better of Busquets and cracked a shot that Pinto pushed round the post.

The Calderón raised the volume and Atlético began looking for a second that would surely finish the game. Gabi broke into space left by Alves and quite frankly should have scored but shot weakly allowing Pinto to save. Then in the 72nd minute Atlético had another shout for a penalty after Mascherano appeared to barge Villa, the play continued with a tremendous scramble with Busquets finally clearing to thwart Raul Garcia.

The game was now slipping away from Barça and Martino needed to do something. His response to throw on Pedro made sense, his decision to take off Iniesta did not (at the time I wrote one word in my notebook: ‘madness’). Barça’s first twenty minutes had been undoubtedly poor, but it had at least been predictable that Atlético would start very strongly. The flipside of Atlético’s heavy early press is that they eventually tire, the last 20 minutes should have been the time to turn the screw and punish them.

Instead it was Barça that faded. Besides one cross from Alexis that Neymar headed wide there was nothing of danger to worry Courtois. Simeone predictably animated the crowd in the final minutes as his team played out time by the corner flag. The Calderón celebrated a famous victory and Atlético can now look forward to their first semi-final in Europe’s top competition since 1974.

For Barça there are now many questions and the feeling that we are paying the price for ignoring the lessons of last season’s elimination to Bayern Munich. Martino is likely to face most criticism today for his decisions. It’s difficult to understand playing Messi on the right and Fabregas in the middle when he could have played Messi in his normal position and Alexis (or Pedro) on the right, but the idea that we would improve by taking off Iniesta was extremely questionable. Besides these decisions it was also very worrying to see such an uninspired performance. Were the players not fired up for this? Besides a creditable performance from Alba, an improvement from Bartra and Xavi in the second half, and some moments from Neymar and Iniesta, there was little to make you feel proud. Atlético are an extremely effective team that deserve every credit for their achievements under Simeone. However, in our previous four games this season we gave them a decent match and if we could have given a similar performance tonight, given the luck we had, it might have been enough.

Now, we can only lick our wounds and try and get our act together for the other two trophies we can still win this season. On Saturday we travel to Granada for a league game which, after tonight’s result, could prove to be tricky. Then next Wednesday we’ll have to find a much improved performance when we face Real Madrid in Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final.

Atlético: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis; Raul Garcia, Gabi, Tiago, Koke; Adrian (Diego Ribas m62), Villa (Cristian Rodriguez m78).

Barça: Pinto 6; Alves 4.5, Bartra 6, Mascherano 5.5, Alba 7.5; Xavi 6, Busquets 5, Iniesta 6 (Pedro m72, 5.5); Messi 4.5, Fabregas 5 (Alexis m61, 6), Neymar 6.5.

Goal: m5 Koke 1-0

Yellow cards: m18 Busquets, m91 Koke, m92 Mascherano, m93 Alves.

Attendance: 54,800

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10 Responses to Match Report: Atlético Madrid 1 FC Barcelona 0 (Atlético win 2-1 on aggregate)

  1. Caleb says:

    Yep. Not a memorable night for Barça. I’ve made this comment before, but I really want to see everyone on the team play defense intensely. I understand that we may want to “save” our special players, like Neymar and Messi. But If everyone was defending with intensity of, say, Iniesta today, the result would have been different. If Iniesta can put forth that sort of effort and play as much as he does, I don’t understand why players several years younger than him can’t do the same.

    The only time we’ve really hit amazing heights in terms of overall team effort since Pep was that game against Milan, in my opinion.

    Also, I agree. Pedro or Alexis have earned a spot instead of playing Messi out of position.

    And obviously I don’t agree with taking Iniesta off either. He seemed most likely of anyone—except perhaps Neymar—to make the play that would get Barca a goal today.

  2. Caleb says:

    Also, congrats to Simeone and Atletico. They played a great game.

  3. Barca4Life says:

    This is going to be weird. But based on messi’s last two shit games before this perhaps Tata would have done better with Alexis Pedro Neymar upfront from the start. Honestly MEssi was completely missing from the game. He didn’t even try to do shit!! Was he even playing? Wtf was on his mind?

  4. FCB4LIFE says:

    Point 1 – What the hell was Messi playing. No penetration =Fine…..was he even trying to help out in defending? No. Was he even running around trying. No? How much did he cover? 1.5 KM more than Pinto. That’s just disgusting, really!!! After all these times, he chose to fuck us up, now!! I cherish him,,,I really do…but sometimes I felt Messi just doesn’t do his part as a team player. It is almost as a statement from him to the rest indirectly saying = “Hay pals, if i’m not the center of attraction, I aint doing shit” I lose the ball…you chase it down for me….because guess what I AM LEO MESSI!!

    Fuck this shit!! I am so fuckin disgusted really…for his shit display…he deserves to explain to the fans what went wrong. I don’t care…I need to hear it!!

    Neymar did his part. Fabregas was ineffective. Messi on the other hand was not even trying to get involved….he just fuckin disappeared. What the fuck just happened? Did he fight with his father, gf, was his kid sick the night before??I need to fuckin hear it!!

    Point 2- Bartra was great last night. He tried his best and looks a super prospect,,,a very dependable defender to cover in Pique’s absence. Problem is…He seems to be too similar with Pique in many ways, so much so that he doesn’t seem to play well when played alongside Pique. Can this be improved on? We must try in the upcoming games.

    Point 3- Mascherano, I’m sorry…I think your time is up…..You can no longer tip the balance in high profile games unless you get your knees done. We need you standing at 182CM by minimum pal!!! We have been getting a nice bullying at the back huge thanks to you!! I hope Vertonghen comes in next season….but first we have to be successful in our appeal for the ban to be postponed to make this transfer materialize.

    Point 4- Last night Tata didn’t play like Tata…Tata played something similar to Pep and the old Barsa. This is bad. How I would have played id given the chance? Simple. I will choose a 4-4-2 surprise of a formation.

    Played a back four of Alba, Mascherano, Bartra, Montoya

    Midfield of Iniesta on the left, Busquets as DM, Song as CM in the center, and Dani Alves on the right. All three dour will stay close and compact leaving just Dani to supply add on width on right while the rest stay compact in midfield and pressure the fuckin ball!!

    Forward line just Messi and Neymar

    Why this formation ?

    As we defend, Dani comes in to offer support to Montoya. Corner kicks we have extra height in Song. As we defend, Song can come in to help, dani can come in to help as well and their help in defence is anytime better than Xavi and Fabregas’s help considering height and power, tackling and aggression rate.

    As we attack, Song could supply added Beef, has a decent passing rate. Not good enough as a DM for us as proven in some of the games he played there….but as a CM has he ever disappointed us? Nic and the rest… can you tell me that Alex Song sucks as a CM for Barcelona? Look, this is the exact ingredient in Yaya Toure that we failed to use. Yaya had attacking power…..Why the heck didn’t we use him as A CM in physical games such as this one. Why must we insist so much on just pure tiki taka ish Xavi and only him alone……when we can sometimes go for the direct approach…fight power, use power and blend it with tiki taka….in between. A good manager should know that this was the game to show more directness…be relentless in pressuring and use a plan b that isn’t too far away from Plan A. The surprise element was missing on a night where clearly Diego Simeone outclassed Tata in the tactical department.

    On the other hand, we all know that Dani always seems so happy to bomb that right flank and use that width…so why not just use someone like Montoya to cover his ass at the back.

    On the top, we have Messi and Neymar. APPARENTLY this two need alot of ‘space’ to work their magic. So we clear up the slots for them to do just that. Who interferes with their ‘space’ from time to time?

    Song during set pieces, set up and build up play Song only plays from penalty box to penalty box….looks to tee be the connector, looks to assist and looks to pass….sometimes storming into the penalty box himself.

    Iniesta will do whatever Iniesta does best but with instructions to be a little more direct and to release the ball i slight bit faster than he usually does.

    general team instructions: All players must fuckin pressure relentleesly regardless of whatever fuck the situation…MESSI and NEYMAR included. When we attack, INIESTA, DANI, MESSI, NEYMAR ARE HIGH UP with SONG slightly behind and Buquets offerring cover alongside Song…When We defend, DANI fuckin Alves runs back, Song runs back, Busquets crawls back, Inesta PLAYS CONNECTOR in midfield, Messi and Neymar comes in slightly deeper and get ready to counter!! Yes, you heard it right. We must have the counter attack element in games like this. That element was there when Messi got injured..no when Messi got back….that element went MISSING!! WHY? I don’t fuckin know why!!

  5. FCB4LIFE says:

    I am no manager to say this…..just a crazy fan!! Seriously speaking, I am just too disappointed with the efforts shown by Leo Messi especially last night. I coudn’t sleep. I took a sick leave today. I really don’t mind losing to A.Madrid. I don’t mind it at all….but atleast show some efforts to win it. Messi disappointed me with his primadona shit in this game. I dont mind him having no magic….but atleast fuckin run!

  6. layibiyi says:

    One thing I would mention is that I prefer we got eliminated by Atletico than any of the other teams. Given the current concerns on and off the pitch, the champions league was always a stretch this season. I’m surprised some fans still think we can sneak by top teams with all these issues, despite last season. I would like to believe we have been saved from another 7-0 embarrassment

    I look forward to the remaining games.

    • Fredegar says:

      Not a bad way to consider things, particularly as we could really have been embarrassed in this game: had Atleti been ruthless with their finishing, we could well have lost it 5-0, so I tend to agree with you that it’s probably better we don’t have to face a rematch against Bayern just now. Although the recent performances against City, Real and even in the first leg against Atletico made me hope we could still compete at the highest level, this last game proved we don’t have the consistency to be among the best european sides this year, a place Atletico fully deserve more than we do.

    • Caleb says:

      I think Atletico may deserve a bit more credit. They have been really amazing this season. We have played against Real and City and beat both of them, so I’m not sure it’s fair to say that there was likely some 7-0 drubbing in store—maybe Bayern, but look, they even struggled some with Man U. I wouldn’t be surprised if Atletico went all the way; they have the unity and work rate to do so.

      • layibiyi says:

        Think you might have gotten me wrong a bit Caleb. Atletico have actually been my second favorite team. I prefer we got eliminated by them because we have some major grudges against the other teams left.

        With regards to the embarrassment, that was opined with regards to all the issues around the club. One of the critical ones being valdes and pique out. Also, the effects of all the other off-the-pitch issues seem to have trickled down to the pitch attimes. And like Fredegar mentioned, consistency is very important also. We had some games last year that allowed us to hope big as well (e.g Milan, even the mental strength displayed against PSG), but ultimately, our flaws (defensive depth and tactical issues) which we didn’t address were exposed heavily on an even bigger stage.

        • Caleb says:

          Fair enough. But, honestly, in view of all our games over the last few years there has only been one time where we were summarily dismantled—against Bayern. It seems more like the Perfect Storm to me, and I would have been really surprised for something that awful to happen again. You could be right, though. I guess we’ll never know.

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