Barcelona 1 Atletico Madrid 0
The mercurial Lionel Messi proved to be the difference between the two La Liga title hopefuls in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie last night, in a tight contest. Barcelona had to wait until the final stages for their breakthrough in the quarter-final though, before their Argentinian hotshot could convert a penalty at the second attempt, after his initial shot had been saved.
After overcoming local rivals Real Madrid in the previous round, Atletico travelled to the Nou Camp full of confidence, but also slightly wary after their recent 3-1 reversal in the league at the same venue. Diego Simeone consulted his usual bag of tricks and again pulled out a team performance to thwart (for the main part) one of the giants of Spanish #Football..
Barcelona had limited chances to take the lead during the match, with perhaps their clearest opportunity falling to the usually deadly Luis Suarez. He still seems some way short of the form that made him top scorer in England last year with Liverpool though, and badly blazed his shot over the bar when well placed.
Another former Reds' striker was on display for Atletico, in the form of the loanee Fernando Torres. After becoming the hero of their victory over Real with his two goals at the Bernabeu, he was unable to have the same impact against Barcelona, but did see a goal bound shot of his blocked by Gerard Pique. Still to gain full fitness and to settle completely into his new (albeit second time around) surroundings, he was taken off at half-time as Simeone looked for fresh options. His attacking partner, the equally impressive Frenchman Antione Griezmann also went close when heading over a Guilherme Siqueira cross. #CelebritiesThere were just five minutes remaining of the game after a soporific second-half, before Barca finally got some collateral to take into the second leg at the Vicente Calderon Stadium next week.
Messi's penalty kick was saved at the first attempt by keeper Jan Oblak, but he swiftly latched on to the rebound and tucked the ball home. There was some contention about the accuracy of the penalty decision in the first place, as Sergio Busquets appeared to all too easily fall to the ground after minimal contact by Gabi. It was Messi's 29th goal of yet another highly productive season so far, following on from the 30th hat-trick of his career at Barcelona in their recent game against Deportivo La Coruna. He clearly seems to have his sights set on next year's Ballon d'Or prize already, after disappointment this year as Cristiano Ronaldo took the honour instead.