Just like in Wednesday's Champions League match, Barcelona played superbly, and only an otherwordly performance by Atletico's goalkeeper De Gea avoided an embarrassing result for Atletico Madrid.
Playing against one of the best teams in Spain (and, according to Guardiola, in Europe), Barcelona started pretty strong. Messi set up Villa who hit the woodwork, and a couple of minutes later, in the 13th minute, Messi himself scored a fine goal.
As should be expected from such a great team, Atletico reacted immediately and Raul Garcia managed to score the equalizer with a header in the 25th minute.
But this was Barcelona's day. The blaugrana kept playing their usual football and creating chances but were constantly denied by De Gea. In the 32th minute, however, Piqué scored a great goal off a corner kick; he met the corner at the far post, chested the ball down to beat his marker and fired low past the keeper for a real striker’s goal.
At halftime, Barcelona, deservedly, led 2-1.
The result didn't change in the second half, thanks to the brilliant De Gea. Xavi, Pedro, Messi, and Villa all saw their efforts denied by this amazing young Spanish goalkeeper. Let's hope Del Bosque was taking notes; De Gea has been proving his quality since last season and today he was by far the man of the match.
Overall, it was a great match like almost every Atletico vs. Barcelona matchup in recent seasons. The two teams played great football; Atletico played well but caught Barcelona in the wrong day. Ever since losing to Hercules, the blaugrana seem to be on a mission to prove to everyone that they're still the best team in the world.
However, this great football match was runied by a certain Ujfalusi. A vicious, malicious challenge from the Atletico Madrid player (who received a much-deserved straight red card) in the dying minutes of the game damaged Messi's right ankle ligaments.
Given the brutality of the challenge, the most talented player of this generation can consider himself lucky that he didn't suffer a more serious injury. Challenges like this are expected in the Premier League, but not from a team who plays such brilliant football as Atletico Madrid. Let's hope that Ujfalusi receives the adequate punishment—unsportsmanlike conduct can't go unpunished.
As for Barcelona, they'll have to keep winning without Messi, at least for the next two weeks. It's time for Bojan to step up and show the Camp Nou that he does have what it takes to become one of the best players in the world.
Every Barcelona fan, as well as every football fan, hopes that Messi recovers as soon as possible. But if he doesn't, it's Bojan's time and there's every reason to believe that he will rise to the occasion.
Barcelona plays again on Wednesday at home against Sporting Gijon. After a shocking defeat to Hercules, Barcelona are looking to win their first home match of the league season. Even without Messi, if Barcelona keeps the same quality and attitude shown today, they shouldn't have too many problems getting the three points.
By beating Atletico and breaking the curse (three straight defeats at Calderón), Barcelona passed one of the toughest tests of the season. However, to win the league, they must win the "easy" matches as well, starting on Wednesday.
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