BARCELONA: Luis Suarez scored two second-half goals to lead Barcelona to a 2-1 comeback victory over 10-man Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday.
Fernando Torres opened the scoring in the 25th minute, but quickly went from hero to villain for Atletico when two reckless tackles saw him sent off in the 35th.
Atletico resisted the defending champion’s push for an equalizer until Suarez finally leveled with an opportunistic goal in the 63rd.
Suarez then put Barcelona ahead in the 74th when he played Dani Alves wide before sending the Brazil defender’s cross past goalkeeper Jan Oblak with an unstoppable header.
“This is one of the worst days of my life as a football player,” Torres said. “I’m sad for having left my team with 10. In some way I feel responsible for the team not winning.
“I am sure that with 11 it would have been completely different.”
That view seemed to be shared by Suarez.
“Torres’s red card was crucial because everyone knows about the quality he has,” Suarez said after scoring his team-high seventh and eight goals in the Champions League this season.
“It was a shame because it would have been great to come back against 11 players. The most important thing is that we won and they will have to score in the Calderon.”
Also on Tuesday, Bayern Munich edged Benfica 1-0 in their quarterfinal first leg.
Barcelona’s fightback came three days after Real Madrid ended Barcelona’s Spanish record 39-match unbeaten streak with a 2-1 win at Camp Nou.
Besides recovering its winning ways after the disappointing “clasico” defeat, Luis Enrique’s side avenged its exit at the hands of Atletico from the 2013-14 quarterfinals with its club-record 11th consecutive home win in the competition.
Suarez took his overall haul to 45 goals this season, as he and strike partners Lionel Messi and Neymar recovered their form after underwhelming against Real.
But at full strength, Atletico’s disciplined defense, which had Diego Godin back in the middle after an injury layoff, disrupted Barcelona’s attack, a promising sign that coach Diego Simeone can take into the second leg in addition to the away goal.
“We are alive,” said Simeone, who added that he had to cool down after the match to avoid criticizing the referee for sending off Torres.
“They had the chance to get another goal, but they couldn’t manage it. That will get our fans fired up for the second match in Madrid.”
Again, the clash of styles between the high-flying Barcelona and gritty Atletico produced another entertaining chapter in a growing rivalry between the Spanish clubs.
Atletico was content to absorb Barcelona’s attacks until Antoine Griezmann got its first shot. While his effort was off-target, Torres didn’t miss a minute later to continue his great scoring record against Barceona.
Gabi Fernandez led Atletico forward by passing to Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, who in turn slipped a through ball to meet Torres’s run. The striker did the rest by sending a first-time shot between the legs of keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for his 11th goal in 15 matches against Barcelona.
The goal unsettled Barcelona and Griezmann almost added another, only for Ter Stegen to redeem himself with a spectacular dive to paw his volley past his post.
Charged with being Atletico’s first line of defense, an over-eager Torres had picked up a booking for a foul on Neymar in the 29th, and a second clumsy tackle on Sergio Busquets earned him another yellow just minutes later.
Atletico succeeded in hunkering down until Barcelona picked up the pace of its passing and hemmed them into its box in the second half.
Midfielder Rafina went on as a second-half substitute for his first action for Barcelona since tearing a right-knee ligament in September.”
Luis Enrique said that besides Torres’ sending off, his team took control by ditching its solo efforts in the first half and recovering its team passing style.
“We played with our heads, not just our hearts, which can lead to disaster,” Luis Enrique said. “I loved the match.
The only ‘but’ I would give it is that we didn’t score another goal. We have to think that we need to win at the Calderon.”
Messi almost struck with an acrobatic bicycle kick before Neymar fired the ball against the bar in the 51st. Seeing his team in trouble, Simeone sent on midfielder Augusto Fernandez for Yannick Carrasco, but Suarez finally undid Atletico when he was in position to turn in Jordi Alba’s errant shot.
Barcelona continued to press and Suarez was both playmaker and finisher when he spotted Dani Alves free on the right wing before moving forward to thump in his pass for the winning goal.
Courtesy : Dawn News