Barcelona, November 22
Atletico Madrid strengthened their status as the early front-runners in the Spanish league title race after beating Barcelona and watching Real Madrid fall further behind.
Under coach Diego Simeone, Atletico knew what it was like to beat Barcelona in the Champions League and Copa del Rey, but they had been denied a victory over Lionel Messi’s side in the domestic league in 20 consecutive attempts. Their first win over Barcelona in the competition since 2010 left them level on points with leaders Real Sociedad.
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona were left languishing in 10th place, nine points back. Both Atletico and Barcelona have games in hand.
“It’s true that we hadn’t beaten them in years, although we had been close. This is the payoff of working toward this victory,” Simeone said, while not wavering from his mantra of going ahead “game by game.”
The long-awaited win came after a Real Madrid side debilitated by injuries and coronavirus infections dropped points for the second consecutive round when they drew 1-1 at Villarreal.
Adding to Barcelona’s injury problems, defence leader Gerard Pique suffered what his club called a right-knee sprain early in the second half when Angel Correa fell onto his leg and made it buckle inwards. Pique immediately called for help. He walked gingerly off on his own power, but he seemed to be in tears. Barcelona also lost Sergi Roberto to an apparent right-thigh injury in the final minutes.
Two superb touches by Yannick Carrasco proved to be the key to Atletico breaking their decade of frustration against Barca. Correa pounced on a bad pass by Pique and lobbed the ball forward for Carrasco breaking down the left flank. Marc-Andre ter Stegen rushed out to disrupt the counter-attack, but Carrasco used one deft touch to push the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs. His next touch sent the ball from well outside the box into the open net. — AP