Barcelona came from 0-1 behind to score an absolutely crucial 2-1 win at Atlético Madrid in matchday 3 of La Liga. Not only was this a crucial win in the sense that it was on the road against one of Barcelona’s rivals for the title, but also served as the perfect ‘reply’ to Real Madrid’s 6-0 demolition of Espanyol a mere few hours earlier.
It was looking like Atlético’s night when the oft-maligned Fernando Torres opened the score in the 51st minute, but a mere 4 minutes later Neymar scored a spectacular freekick to even the score and then the inevitable Lionel Messi sealed yet another win for the Catalans, who are now on 5-match winning streak against Atlético Madrid after they lost the 2013/2014 La Liga title to Los Colconheros in the last day at Camp Nou.
Here’s a look at the players who did well and not so well for each side today:
FC Barcelona Winners
The world’s best player started on the bench after he had to miss practice (and presumably not got much sleep) to attend the birth of his second son on Friday, but as soon as he got into the match early in the second half his influence was as visible as usual. His dribbling and pinpoint passing caused all sorts of havoc in the Atlético defense and he capped it off by scoring the winning goal.
It was Messi’s first goal of the La Liga season and his 11th at the Vicente Caldéron in his career. He’s also steadily closing in on 300 La Liga goals (287 at the moment).
With the above said, the real hero of today’s match was Neymar, whose stunning free kick equalizer completely changed the match when Barcelona looked in serious danger of losing.
His overall performance wasn’t particularly great, although that can be explained by the fact that he’s still not back to full fitness after injury, but he stepped up when the team needed him the most, showing why he’s one of the best players in the world these days.
Atlético Madrid Winners
Continued his ressurgence under Simeone by scoring the opening goal of the match with an excellent finish, aside from causing Barcelona’s defense a lot of trouble with his movement before eventually being replaced by Jackson Martinez.
It’s still too early to make any definite statements, but there are signs that Torres might be on the way to having his best season since 2008.
He wasn’t particularly brilliant, but showed quite a few flashses of his talent after coming into the match in the middle of the second half, at a time where Atlético were struggling a lot to assert themselves on the match.
FC Barcelona Losers
It’s hard to find much to criticize in a team that just secured a key away him against of their biggest rivals, but Rafinha stood out in today’s match. In fairness to him, he was given the nigh-on impossible task of replacing Lionel Messi in the starting lineup, but he was never really able to impose himself on the match.
As mentioned above, it’s hard to really criticize much today when it comes to Barcelona. Suarez didn’t play a bad match, but of Barcelona’s famous MSN attacking trio he was the weakest link today. He doesn’t look at the top of his physical condition and match sharpness quite yet, though it should only be a matter of time.
Atlético Madrid Losers
He struggled a lot against Barcelona’s midfield and just wasn’t as dynamic and dangerous as he usually is. Atlético suffered a lot from his inability to assert himself on the match today. In fairness to him, the likes of Gabi, Oliver Torres and Tiago didn’t exactly step up either, but a lot was expected from Koke and today he didn’t deliver.
This was Atlético’s big opportunity to make a big statement and prove to everyone that they’re title contenders, against a Barcelona side that’s not at their best at the moment and with Messi on the bench. But after nullifying Barcelona back in 2013-2014, Simeone once again couldn’t find a solution to the Catalan problems. It’s now 5 consecutive defeats for Atlético against Barcelona and the enthusiam generated by their great start to the season has been a bit deflated.