Copa Del Rey: Messi, Suarez inflict more pains on Atletico
Copa Del Rey By: Collins Udeme | 01/02/2017
Atletico Madrid's struggles in recent fixtures continued on Wednesday following a 2-1 home defeat to Barcelona in a Copa del Rey semi-final first leg clash at the Vicente Calderón, rendering them winless in four successive games.Barcelona flew out of the traps with goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, leaving Atletico Madrid already staring at a Copa del Rey semi-final exit. Antoine Griezman's goal just before the hour mark was not enough as the Catalans held on to inflict more pains on the capital Boys.Barcelona made six changes for the semi-final first leg in the capital while the hosts Atletico opted for just three changes.Jasper Cillessen, Barca’s cup goalkeeper, returned between the sticks as Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and lucky charm Samuel Umtiti all returned in defence.In the middle of the park, Aleix Vidal and Denis Suarez made way for Javier Mascherano and Andre Gomes.Having drawn their last three Atletico Madrid were not prepared to throw caution to the wind in ending their run as right-back Juanfran doubled up with Sime Vrsaljko down the right. Diego Simeone replaced Josema Gimenez with Stefan Savic at centre-back. Captain Gabi Fernandez was back in the line-up with Kevin Gameiro benched.First HalfBarcelona wasted no time as Neymar was released by Lionel Messi down the inside-right, but the Brazilian's cutback was cleared for a corner by Stefan Savic. A fantastic goal from Luis Suarez, which had shades of his memorable nutmeg on David Luiz in the Champions League two years ago broke the deadlock to give the visitors the lead. The Uruguayan dropped deep to pick the ball up from Javier Mascherano, before driving forward, leaving an opponent for dead and poking a finish past Miguel Moya.Atletico placed a header just wide, before another was planted on the roof of Jasper Cillessen's net. Nothing was going for Atletico whose call for a corner was waived as Saul Niguez was deemed to have had the last touch on the ball down the left, not Gerard Pique, who smothers for a Barca goal kick.Moments later, Pique made a huge block to stop Filipe's cross from reaching Carrasco in the Barca box. The Catalans then launch a counterattack from the resulting corner, before Atleti broke back but Griezmann was pickpocketed by Ivan Rakitic. With Barca 1-0 up against the home side halfway through the first half, Neymar made a mockery of Atleti's right side again as he cut inside and fired a low shot at Moya, who needed a second attempt to make a safe.Straight from a Cillessen goal kick inside the final 12 minutes of the opening 45, Suarez played the ball back to Neymar, who in turn found Messi. The Argentine then played a one-two with Rakitic before smashing a shot past Moya from 20 yards out for Barcelona's second.Inside the final five minutes of the first half, Suarez blasted a shot into Gabi for yet another corner before Atletico finally tested Cillessen through Koke whose curling strike swerved just over.Second HalfSimeone made a change for the second half as Fernando Torres came on for Vrsaljko and it was the home side who started on the front foot as Gabi linked up with Torres and and almost found a way to Cillessen's goal before being crowded out.Koke then had a shot that forced Cillessen into a low save although the goalkeeper couldn't stop the ball from going out. Rakitic was replaced by Denis Denis Suarez by Luis Enrique while his opposite number Simeone took off Saul for Nico Gaitan.Gaitan's introduction brought some spark into the Atletico side. Godin headed a free kick across Cillessen's goal, which Griezmann nodded home for 2-1 and we finally had a game on our hands.The push for the equaliser intensified as Filipe's cutback was met by Griezmann in Barca's penalty area, but the Frenchman was denied by Cillessen at point-blank range, with the goalkeeper stationed on his line.Atletico went for the kill as Kevin Gameiro replaced Carrasco but the striker failed to prod home a delicious-looking low cross into the danger area after coming on.Barcelona had their own spell when the ball is magnetised to Messi who teed up Neymar for what should have been Barca's third but the Brazilian's first-time shot curled into over.Cillessen's bad throw later fell straight to an Atletico player shirt and Gameiro's overhead kick at the far post went just wide. Mascherano got robbed from Cillessen's pass out by Torres but the former Liverpool man fired inches wide with less than four minutes left from the 90.Cillessen was again called into a save after spilling a shot from the left but eventually gathered after the referee obstructed Gabi from meeting a layoff. Barcelona held on to see out the three minutes injury time despite a late scare just wide of Cillessen's far post.