Lionel Messi scored his much-awaited 700th career goal with a panenka-penalty and then turned back towards the cameras to the left of the Atletico Madrid goal, clicked his fingers like the mighty villain in the Avengers – Thanos hinting that he is inevitable. But in the end, Camp Nou was conquered by Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. The individual glory was overshadowed by the fightback of Simeone’s men.
It was a match where Atleti scored three out of four – Saul Niguez scored twice and Diego Costa scored an own goal. If Costa had not committed that blunder, it would have been a victory for Atleti at Camp Nou.
The opening thirty minutes had been all about fluidity – Barca and Atleti displayed the best of footballing moments. It was the Catalans, who took the lead – a Lionel Messi corner took a massive deflection from Diego Costa and Atleti discovered themselves trailing by 1-0.
Yannick Carrasco won a penalty for Diego Simeone’s side after a rash tackle from Barcelona’s Arturo Vidal. Diego Costa’s attempt was thwarted by Ter Stegen but the Barcelona goalkeeper came off his line to make the save and Saul Niguez made no mistake with Atletico Madrid’s second attempt.
Lionel Messi and Riqui Puig had some bright moments but were unable to unlock Atletico Madrid’s defensive structure. Barcelona looked frustrated after the equalizer while its opponents regrouped and presented a united front for the rest of the first half.
In the second half, Barca won a penalty after Felipe fouled Nelson Semedo after the full-back was released by Luis Suarez. Barca went ahead courtesy of a Messi landmark.
The tide would turn yet again as Semedo gave away a controversial penalty at the other end with the slightest of touches on Yannick Carrasco. Saul Niguez scored his second penalty of the match with a shot that narrowly escaped Ter Stegen’s grasp.
One could say that Barca were good, but they need to be better to crack the code of a well-drilled Atleti backline.
Most importantly, Atleti’s counterattack had been outstanding which was led by Yarnick Carrasco.
Yannick Carrasco looked to be Atleti’s next big thing when he changed the game and scored Atleti’s equalizer in the 2016 Champions League final, but it never came to pass and he was sold to Dalian Yifang in the Chinese Super League. But in January he rejoined Atleti on loan.
Carrasco with a performance akin to his peak during his first spell at Atléti was refreshing
Gaitan failed.Gelson Martins failed. Lemar failed. Simeone’s 4-4-2 has been crying out for a natural winger to excel instead of shoehorning the likes of Koke & Saúl out wide
Key for UCL pic.twitter.com/Dw9zNHq0L1
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) June 30, 2020
Carrasco’s intelligence had been the key to win Atleti two penalties, but he was just more than that. His blistering pace and skill took the life out of Gerard Pique. He kept the left flank occupied and linked up very well with Renan Lodi. Moreover, Carrasco also had the unenviable job of tracking back to keep tabs on Messi.
Quique Setien switched to a 4-1-2-1-2 aka a 4-4-2 diamond midfield. Their width came from the full-backs – Semedo and Jordi Alba and in the middle. Sergio Busquests formed the base with the three upfront just wandered around along with Messi and Suarez.
Riqui Puig injected some life to the midfield and seemed the only player who could link-up well with Messi.
Thomas Partey's game by numbers vs. Barcelona:
100% take-ons completed (2/2)
100% aerial duels won (3/3)
25 duels contested
15 tackles attempted
5 tackles made
4 fouls conceded
3 interceptions pic.twitter.com/nskQAwSRTd
— cricketsoccer (@cricketsoccer) June 30, 2020
Whereas, the Atleti midfield was dominated by Thomas Partey. put in yet another massive performance against Barcelona. He did not let the opposition players settle and pass the ball around. He was also strong in his tackles and was at the heart of the midfield battle. Then Saul aided the much-needed support at the center of the park other than bagging two important goals.
Above all, one must not forget, Jan Oblak might have digested two goals, but he made a huge difference with a couple of really good saves. He did well to deny Ivan Rakitic in the first half and even better to turn away a deflected Lionel Messi free-kick.
Braca drop points and it would be a huge boost for Real Madrid who face Getafe on Thursday.