Suárez’s Brace and Torres’ Blunder Save Barça in UCL First Leg

Barca's Luis Suarez scores in Champs League

Image: Reuters

Tuesday night, the Champions League resumed with the first round of quarterfinals starting up. In one tie, Bayern Munich played host to Benfica at the Allianz Arena. In the other, Barcelona hosted fellow Spanish club Atlético Madrid at the Nou Camp. Barça were coming off of a demoralizing 2-1 defeat to their bitter rivals Real Madrid during this weekend’s El Clásico, but still had to be considered heavy favorites going into Tuesday’s match. Could Atlético steal an improbable away victory, or would Barça make another statement victory?

Barça, sporting their alternate yellow kit at home, started the match on the front foot. Lionel Messi had two chances within the opening quarter of an hour, but failed to hit the target with either of them. Neymar joined in on the action in the 18th minute when his headed effort flew just over the crossbar. It was starting to look like just a matter of time before the hosts would find the back of the net.

After this initial period of Barça dominance, Atlético finally started to find their way into the match. Antoine Griezmann hit a long drive just wide of the post in the 22nd minute, and two minutes later the visitors grabbed an unexpected opener. Koke slid Fernando Torres through on goal in the 24th minute and the former Liverpool star hit a lovely first time shot through Marc-André ter Stegen’s legs to give his side the lead. This was only the start of Torres’ contributions to the match, but Atléti fans wouldn’t be too fond of what he would do later.

On the half hour mark, Torres played a lofted through ball to Griezmann and the Frenchman hit a shot that looked destined for the bottom corner. Luckily for Barça fans, ter Stegen got down and deflected the ball out for a corner kick. Five minutes later, Torres took down Sergio Busquets on the halfway line. This reckless challenge earned the Spanish striker his second yellow of the match and put Atlético down to ten men for the remaining hour.

At the start of the second half, Luis Enrique’s squad still trailed by a goal. Three minutes into the half, Messi tried to pull off an audacious overhead kick but it went just wide of the far post. Two minutes later, Neymar hammered a curled effort off the crossbar. How much longer could Atlético’s defense keep the MSN partnership at bay?

Messi and Neymar continued to push for an opener, but neither could navigate their way into the back of the net. That meant that the goal scoring responsibility fell on the shoulders of Luis Suárez. Just after the hour mark, Jordi Alba sent in a powerful low drive, and Suárez was in the perfect position to tap in the equalizer. The close-range deflection was the Uruguayan’s seventh Champions League in just eight matches.

In the 73rd minute, Suárez finally put the Catalan club ahead. The striker got on the end of Dani Alves’ cross and hit a magnificent header past Jan Oblak to give Barça a deserved 2-1 lead. Suárez’s two-goal performance was good enough to secure a first-leg victory for the Spanish leaders, but Atlético will be happy to walk away with a vital away goal. Messi and Co. will need another strong performance next week to secure passage into the semifinals.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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