Barcelona moved three points clear in the Liga title race with a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid. Ousmane Dembele’s strike in the 22nd minute proved the difference as Atletico failed to breach the Barcelona defence – although there was an eventful finale as Stefan Savic and Ferran Torres were sent off and the hosts had a shot cleared off the line.
The game started brightly, with both sides able to get forward and into dangerous positions. Barcelona quickly settled on the ball and Atletico retreated into their familiar defensive shape, inviting Barcelona on and hoping to win the ball to spring a counter-attack.
Xavi’s side found the breakthrough on 22 minutes as Pedri drove through the heart of Atletico before finding Gavi, who used his body brilliantly before laying it off to Dembele to slide it past Jan Oblak.
Diego Simeone’s side woke up around the 30-minute mark, moving further up the pitch and playing more positively in search of an equaliser. Atletico ended the first half strongly and the hosts approached the second half in the same way as they ended the first – pushing forward in search of an equaliser but without creating many clear-cut opportunities.
Barcelona weathered the Atletico storm well, keeping hold of the ball and frustrating the Atletico players. Xavi’s side failed to have a shot on target in the second half but kept possession well in true Barcelona fashion.
The game had a frantic end, with Stefan Savic and Ferran Torres both being sent off following a tussle off the ball and just a few minutes later Antoine Greizmann had a golden opportunity to equalise against his former club from point-blank range but it was cleared off the line brilliantly by Ronald Araujo.
The result means that Diego Simeone’s side keep up their rather poor record of failing to win a game after going 1-0 down. Atletico’s overly defensive approach in the first half meant that Barcelona had time on the ball to grow into the game and play with confidence.
When Xavi’s side did find the breakthrough, Atletico had to quickly switch to Plan B. It took nearly 35 minutes for Simeone’s side to really get into the game but at that point they were fighting an uphill battle. Once the shackles were taken off, Atletico went on to have 20 shots in the match, with five of them being on target. It must be incredibly frustrating at times for both the Atletico Madrid players and the supporters that the team sets up this way at the beginning of matches, looking to pinch the ball and play largely on the counter attack – especially when the squad is capable of much more.