Atletico Madrid holds Barca 1-1 at Camp Nou
Barcelona, Sep 22 (IANS) Spanish football club Atletico Madrid picked up a valuable away point as they held Barcelona 1-1 at Camp Nou here.
The visitors deployed the suffocating defence on Wednesday that has made Atletico the least favourite opponent for star-studded attacking sides like Barca and Real Madrid, reports Efe.
Barcelona managed just three shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, all of them from a distance. Visiting keeper Jan Oblak turned aside efforts by Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, while a rocket from Neymar went just wide off the net.
The hosts opened the scoring in the 41st minute on a set piece, thanks to a magnificent header by Ivan Rakitic off a cross from Iniesta.
Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann sought to take the game to Barcelona in the early going after the half-time break, forcing Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make a stop on one occasion and lofting a ball harmlessly into the stands on his second try.
The first signs of trouble for Barca arrived in the form of injuries to Sergio Busquets, who went off in the 51st minute, and to Messi, who left just before the hour mark.
Smelling blood, Atletico coach Diego Simeone sent in Fernando Torres and Angel Correa to press for the equaliser.
He didn’t have to wait long. Torres got the ball near midfield and fed it to Correa, and the Argentine exploited a miscue by defender Javier Mascherano to barge into the area and beat Ter Stegen with a low shot in the 61st minute.
Undaunted, Barca came roaring back, with Neymar challenging Oblak twice.
Neymar provided perfect service to Gerard Pique on a free kick after a foul, but the defender’s header went just wide.
Jordi Alba would have made it 2-1 for Barcelona minutes later if a deflection had not sent his shot over the cross-bar. With five minutes left in regulation, the stands at Camp Nou buzzed with expectation of the goal that would seal an epic victory.
Atletico, however, refused to cooperate and Diego Godin produced a corner for the visitors with a thundering header that Ter Stegen had to stretch to tip over the cross-bar, taking more seconds off the clock.
Nothing came of the pair of chances Barça generated in the three minutes of stoppage time added on by the referee.
The result at Camp Nou, combined with the earlier 1-1 draw between Real Madrid and Villarreal at the Bernabeu, means the Blancos remain atop La Liga with 13 points.
Sevilla hangs on to second with 11 points, followed by Barcelona with 10 and Atletico Madrid with nine points.