A late goal from Luis Suarez helped Barcelona earn a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid on Saturday night at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.
Saul gave Atletico a first-half lead with a rocket, and Atletico looked like they would be the first team to defeat Barcelona this season in LaLiga, but a knockdown header from Luis Suarez in the final 10 minutes was enough to keep Barcelona’s unbeaten league start intact through eight rounds.
Overall, it was a classic Atletico-Barcelona tilt. The pace of the match was constant and the individual quality on the field was ever-present. Atletico will rue giving up a late equaliser, but once Barcelona had substitutes Gerard Deulofeu, Sergi Roberto and Paulinho on the pitch, they were a superior team.
Barcelona fans will be left to wonder how things would have ended had that trio been in manager Ernesto Valverde’s starting XI.As it were, Andre Gomes, who had not started since the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup, got the nod while otherwise it was a full-strength XI from the visitors.
As for Atletico boss Diego Simeone, the most noteworthy decision was the inclusion of Angel Correa up top with Antoine Griezmann. It was a breathless start, with the two teams going at each other from the opening whistle.
Messi almost scored in the first 30 seconds only for Saul to block the shot at the last moment, while Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen twice was called into action to stop Griezmann, the second after a brilliant run from the Frenchman.
Barcelona began to impose their possession-based football, but Atletico weren’t falling for any of the tricks and flicks. It was actually the Colchoneros who looked more likely to score when going forward and that goal would come to pass midway through the half.
Saul received the last of an 18-pass build-up and took full advantage of the space left by the Barcelona defence by ripping a shot past Ter Stegen to give Atletico a 1-0 lead.
Valverde’s men continued to dominate in terms of possession, but their build-ups took too much time and Atletico’s defence were able to transition back and keep the Barcelona attack at bay.Things opened up in the second half.
Atletico forced Barcelona into making some last-second clearances while Messi served up a reminder with a stinging free kick that hit the post and bounced out of play.
Seeking a spark, Valverde turned to his bench, bringing on Sergi Roberto and Deulofeu for Semedo and Andres Iniesta, respectively, at the hour mark, while Simeone also made a change, replacing Correa with Nico Gaitan.
Rare was the moment when Messi had time and space to get off a clean shot, but one such chance came midway through the second stanza but the left-footer from the Argentine blazed wide of the post.
There was still no breakthrough for Barcelona, however, and Valverde’s last roll of the dice came with Paulinho in place of Ivan Rakitic.
It was at this moment that the Catalonians started flying and Luis Suarez appearedFirst, his poked shot was saved by Atletico stopper Jan Oblak, but the Uruguayan would not be denied and moments later he got the better of Juanfran and headed in Sergi Roberto’s cross to bring Barcelona level 1-1.
Barcelona fancied a winner and with another inch or two Suarez could have had a winner after some good work from Deulofeu and Andre Gomes, but was unable to get his boot on the pass from the Portuguese. Messi then had the best of looks via free kick on the stroke of full-time, but shot right at Oblak.
Both teams return to action in the Champions League in midweek; Barcelona hosts Olympiakos on Wednesday, while Atletico travel to Qarabag also on Wednesday.