7th April, 2019
Barcelona took a very giant step towards winning this season’s Laliga title on Saturday night as they put Atletico Madrid in the cooler with a 2-0 win courtesy goals from the usual suspects, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp.
Barcelona were made to wait until late in the game before getting the needed goals as 10-man Atletico Madrid fought doggedly on even after Diego Costa had earned himself a red card in the first half.
Barca naturally dominated the game after the Costa incident but found Atletico’s defence a hard nut to crack with Oblak being a major obstacle for them.
However, just as the visitors looked set to hang on to a draw, Barca’s dominance ultimately paid off as Suarez and then Messi struck late in the day as they did against Villarreal on Wednesday to land what is surely a fatal blow in the race for title.
The visitors from Madrid weathered the storm for most of the second period as well, with Jan Oblak producing an inspired performance, but he was finally beaten twice in the last five minutes as Messi claimed a record-breaking 335th LaLiga victory.
Barcelona should have gone into the lead early as a moment of Messi inspiration opened the Atletico defence for the first time in the 14th minute, but the post came to Oblak’s rescue after Jordi Alba collected the lofted pass.
However, Atletico’s task became even more difficult less than a minute later when Costa was given his marching orders for dissent, seemingly fuming at not getting a free-kick after a tussle with Messi.
In the second half, Barcelona dominated the game, with Messi testing Oblak from distance in the 56th minute, before the goalkeeper made an even better stop to thwart Suarez when one-on-one.
As was to be expected, Oblak was finally beaten five minutes from time as Suarez’s gorgeous curling effort from just outside the penalty area found the bottom-right corner.
Then came the master himself as Barca’s second followed soon after – Messi riding a challenge from Jose Gimenez in the box and tucking a disguised effort inside the right-hand post to spark noisy celebrations at Camp Nou.
Even though in the end he could not keep Barca out, yet Oblak was still the best player on the pitch. The goalkeeper made a host of fine saves, keeping Atletico in the contest until the 85th minute. A lesser player between the posts would have already conceded several by that point.
This defeat has surely ended Atletico’s dwindling hopes of challenging Barca in the title race. Ernesto Valverde’s men will be deserved victors when they are eventually – as now looks increasingly likely – crowned champions.