Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid: Scores, Grades and Analysis
Atletico Madrid struck first. Barcelona didn't let it come close again, rebounding from an early deficit to easily win 4-1 and extend its lead atop the La Liga table to nine points.
Atletico was the far more threatening side in the early stages. Radamel Falcao had the game's first excellent chance when his brilliant header hit the post, and he had another great chance later on the break, just pushing his shot wide after beating keeper Victor Valdes.
But he would get his just reward, scoring the game's first goal in the 30th minute.
Falcao outran the Barca defense down the left side and finished his own break with a breathtaking flick over the keeper. Atletico certainly deserved the first goal, and Falcao showed once again why he's one of the most sought-after players in the world today.
But this is Barca, and it had an answer. Adriano would score just five minutes later with a brilliant strike, cutting in past two defenders on the outside of the right corner of the box and curling a perfect shot past the keeper.
It was as remarkable a shot as you'll see, and from a defender nonetheless.
That shifted the momentum Barcelona's way, and Sergio Busquets made sure the Catalans took advantage, slotting home a ball that fell to him in the box to make it 2-1 just before the half. As first halves go, this one was an absolute thriller.
For good measure, Lionel Messi would add his 89th goal of the calendar year for club and country, giving Barca a 3-1 lead in the 51st minute it would not relinquish. Messi made it look easy, stinging a low shot from just outside the box into the left corner of the net.
He wasn't done, stealing the ball in the box and chipping home his 90th of the year in the 87th minute. At this point, the man simply defies adjectives. There's nothing left to say, except, "He's the best."
The second half was classic Barcelona, as the Catalans completely controlled possession, barely gave the Atletico players a chance to breathe when possession actually did switch the other way, and clinically dictated the pace of play.
If you ever want to watch a team play marvelous defense through possession and limit a dangerous team's chances, just watch the second half of this game. Barca proved in no uncertain terms that it was the top dog in La Liga this season.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona: A-
The man scores two goals, reaching 90 on the year, and I give him an A-?
Here's the thing: For most of the game, Messi wasn't at his finest. He had two really nice opportunities and, as he always does, finished both of them. But for much of the game, he wasn't a huge factor. His loss of possession even led to Atletico's first goal.
But yeah, he still scored two goals. Like I said above, adjectives aren't enough to describe this man on the pitch. He's simply the best.
Radamel Falcao, Atletico Madrid: B+
Yes, he scored Atletico's lone goal, and it was an absolute gem. But he also hit the woodwork with a header and sent one wide on the break, and you could argue those misses cost his squad two points.
That would be a harsh critique of his play, of course, and as always he was the most dangerous player for Atletico. His goal was nothing short of brilliant from start to finish.
But those missed opportunities will surely haunt him as his team looks up at Barcelona in the standings for the rest of the season.
Adriano, Barcelona: A
He gets an A for his goal alone. Seriously. Even if Adriano didn't play well for the rest of the game—and he was quite good and threatening up the right side—I would still give him an A for his effort on that one shot.
It was simply amazing.
Atletico Madrid's Defense: F
I know it's Barcelona. I know Messi scored his two goals while Atletico was trying to battle back from a one-goal deficit. But still, for a team in second place on the table, allowing four goals in a game is simply unacceptable.
Messi's second goal was particularly sloppy on Atletico's part, as the Argentine wonder simply stole the ball in the box and slotted home an easy chip. The Atletico Madrid defenders didn't play like a unit capable of winning a La Liga title, plain and simple.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets think "Messi" should be put in the thesaurus as a synonym for "brilliant."
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