Atlético Does it Again as Griezmann Double Sinks Barcelona

Griezmann
Photo Credit To @FIFAcom

Reigning European champions Barcelona bundled out of the competition as Griezmann fires Atlético Madrid into semis in 2-0 (3-2 agg.) win.

Barcelona’s 2-1 victory over Atlético Madrid last week saw the La Liga leaders ride their luck with Torres’ sending off in the first half, as well as the letting off of Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan should undoubtedly have been sent off too, for kicking out at Juanfran in an off-the ball incident. Instead, it was he who scored both the goals for Barca in the second half to establish their lead in the tie, while Atlético were left fuming at the injustice of it all. However, Simeone’s resilient side turned it all around in the second leg on Wednesday with Antoine Griezmann’s two goals, and an amazing, gritty performance by their midfield and defence to shut down Barcelona’s talented attacking line.

Barcelona have few excuses, if any for choking out in the all-important second leg, and to be fair, they offered none. Many have pointed to the late penalty that Barca should have been awarded when Atlético’s Gabi handled the ball inside their penalty area in the 91st minute. But then, Iniesta should have been sent off for his goal-denying handball a few minutes earlier at the opposite end.

One could argue all day over the what-ifs and the whatabouts. But the fact remains that all Barcelona needed to do was just hold out against Atlético for this match, and they would have gone through. It was their poor defending, and overall lack of their usual fluency that brought about the downfall.

Atlético deserved victors with an assured display against out-of-sorts Barcelona.

While many would undoubtedly focus on this latest stumble by the star-studded Barcelona side, it would be really unfair to not acknowledge an excellent performance by the Atlético players. Griezmann was a constant threat when they attacked, and was clinical with his finishing. Their midfield and defence stuck it out and went toe-to-toe with Barca throughout the game, rarely allowing them a sniff at goal. Lionel Messi was unusually subdued, and was kept so by some tight defending by Godin and Hernandez. The Argentinian has now gone over 450 minutes without scoring for Barca, which is quite a dip from his usual standards. Messi ultimately ended the match without a single shot on goal – something that last happened back in 2014, and against the same team – while Suarez and Neymar didn’t do much better as they were repeatedly stifled by Atléti’s defenders.

Atlético played to win right from the start, and had three decent chances within the first seven minutes of the match. It was Griezmann who opened the scoring, firing home the header after a lovely outside-the-boot ball from Saul in the 36th minute. The Frenchman has been in great form for the team, and he scored again from the penalty spot to net his 6th in the Champions League this season after Iniesta’s handball. Barcelona, meanwhile, struggled to find their rhythm all-match, shifting the ball around much slower than usual and misplacing passes. They had their first shot on goal only in the 41st minute, and appeared to be full of nerves amidst the boisterous atmosphere at the Vicente Calderón.

Diego Simeone would be absolutely delighted with the performance and character his team displayed, as they repeated their feat from 2013-14, when it was his side again that had eliminated Barca in the quarterfinals. They now have another chance to go all the way and win it, having lost the other two times they’ve made the finals in 1973-74, and more recently in 2013-14.

Upcoming games and highlights.

Barcelona will look to quickly shake off their recent losses and hold onto their 3 point lead at the top of the La Liga table in their game against Valencia on Sunday. Atlético, who are right on their tails, will be eager to keep the pressure on them with a win against Granada on the same day. But they will also undoubtedly have one eye on their semifinal clash against Bayern Munich, which was drawn today. Both semifinals would be scheduled for the 26th and 27th of April, with the return legs on the 3rd and 4th of May.

You can check out more details and highlights of this quarterfinal game in its match thread on Reddit.

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