Koke 2/10, Saul 3/10 as Atletico surrender 1-0 at Barcelona
Atletico Madrid’s quest to blow open La Liga’s title race came to an insipid end at the Camp Nou on Sunday as they were meekly beaten 1-0 by Barcelona. It was a far cry from the swashbuckling, free-scoring unit of late with Los Rojiblancos‘ backs-to-the-wall from the off. While it took an incredible free-kick from Lionel Messi to settle the tie, it was no less than Barca deserved given their superiority throughout.
Atleti saw a late Kevin Gameiro effort ruled out for a borderline (but correct) offside call as Diego Simeone once again was left to ponder what might have been in a big game away to Barcelona.
Jose Maria Gimenez kept Luis Suarez quiet and frustrated the life out of him. He was immense. Despite Barca’s domination, they needed a wonderful strike from the best player of all time to win.
Atleti’s ambition was non-existent. Aside from that, simple things like first touch, simple passes and composure were severely lacking.
Manager rating out of 10
1 — I’m sorry but if your whole game plan is to go and get a draw and you end up losing, it’s on you if it doesn’t work. Barca were there for the taking, but he set up negatively and his players looked too scared to disobey him. Abysmal day at the office.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jan Oblak, 6 — No chance for the goal but kept Atleti in it with a couple of smart stops.
DF Sime Vrsaljko, 4 — Had a tough gig largely up against Messi and Phillipe Coutinho all afternoon but just looked a bit off the pace and you cannot afford that against Barca. Hooked on the hour having been booked.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 8 — His side’s best player, which says a lot about their performance. Wonderful last-ditch block on his countryman Suarez in the first half and again from Messi after the break. Immense.
DF Diego Godin, 4 — Looked overawed by the occasion but not the worst offender by any stretch. Loses a mark for giving away a schoolboy free-kick late on as Suarez ran up a blind alley.
DF Filipe Luis, 5 — Another usually reliable figure who was not at the races on Sunday. Seemed reluctant to press forward and when he did, there was little inclination that he wanted to get top the byline and stick the ball into the danger area.
MF Koke, 2 — Has looked so good in recent weeks but was really below par. Awful set-pieces compounded a rubbish performance. Unable to even haul Messi down near the end, though he desperately tried.
MF Thomas Partey, 6 — Foolishly drawn into fouling Messi for the free kick from which he scored, but he was the best of a torrid bunch in the middle of the park and looked dangerous going forwards when switched to right-back.
MF Gabi, 5 — Disciplined in the middle of the park but at times to the detriment of his side, often playing safe when more directness was needed. Got made to look his age by Sergio Busquets after the break and was substituted soon after.
MF Saul Niguez, 3 — Snatched at a shot from the edge of the box when he had time, summing up Atleti’s day. Looked absolutely shattered from chasing Barca’s shadows throughout.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 5 — Worked tirelessly for the team, tracking back when needed but was coaxed into hurrying an effort from the edge of the box when he had time and space to pick his shot.
FW Diego Costa, 4 — Looked a lot livelier when Angel Correa came on but must have been flagged offside at least five times, the majority of which were needless. His side were made to pay for such indiscipline when Gameiro’s strike was ruled out late on for his indiscretion.
FW Angel Correa (for Vrsaljko), 7 — Gave Atletico the oomph they desperately needed and should have started. Who knows what might have happened if he played from the beginning.
FW Kevin Gameiro (for Gabi), 6 — Poachers’ goal ruled out for offside.
DF Lucas Hernandez (for Filipe Luis), NR — A bit more pace and directness out wide late on.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.