Barcelona 1 Atletico Madrid 1 match report: Thibaut Courtois' defiance and Diego Coasta rocket give Atletico Champions League chance

Atletico take the advantage in all-Spanish quarter-final

nou camp

Barcelona’s chances of reaching a seventh consecutive Champions League semi-final were left on a knife-edge as on-loan Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois denied them a first-leg lead at the Nou Camp.

The Atletico Madrid goalkeeper pulled off three brilliant late saves as Barcelona came back from a goal down in the Camp Nou but could not force the second against Diego Simeone’s side.

Jose Mourinho will have noticed this season how Barcelona have struggled to beat the Belgian goalkeeper and with his goal under siege in the final stages, and a Champions League semi-final at stake, the 21-year-old held firm.

The first half was determined by injuries. Gerard Pique fell awkwardly after jumping up and over Diego Costa to win a header and was in immediate discomfort. The man who holds Barcelona’s defence together tried to run the injury off but was replaced by Marc Bartra on 12 minutes.

It was later revealed that Pique would be out for four weeks with a hairline fracture of the pelvis.

Barcelona’s goalkeeper Jose Pinto looked nervous every time the ball was played back to him and Atletico Madrid were looking the more dangerous team with Costa going close from David Villa’s pass. It would not be long before Costa followed Pique down the tunnel but first there were chances for Barcelona.

Neymar wheels away in celebration after scoring Neymar wheels away in celebration after scoring Neymar headed tamely at Courtois from Xavi’s free-kick and then Leo Messi released Dani Alves down the right but his over-hit cross went beyond everyone.

Then came the moment of the first half. Messi produced some mesmerising close control to shuffle around Miranda. He then released Andres Iniesta who got his shot away quickly, but not so quickly that Diego Godin could not read it perfectly and slide across to intercept.

The advantage Atletico had gained from Pique’s injury was wiped out as Costa pulled up in a sprint. Atletico Madrid’s top scorer had passed a late fitness test on a right knee injury to start but pulled up on the half-hour and after a touchline summit with Simeone came off to be replaced by Diego Ribas.

Barcelona had started to see more and more of the ball and the injury to Costa would only shake Atletico’s confidence further.

The injury count was nearly up to three when Arda Turan went in late on Iniesta. From Xavi’s free-kick Bartra headed just wide. Gabi was the next to give away a free-kick, receiving a booking for a foul on Neymar.

The Brazilian was having a poor first half, loose in possession and easily brushed off the ball but he was winning his fair share of free-kicks.

Messi headed Alves’ cross down but Courtois saved comfortably and Alves soon found space down the right again only for his cross to be blocked.

Thibaut Courtois applauds the supporters as he leaves the field Both Simeone and Gerardo Martino were glad to hear the half-time whistle. Simeone  would have had to emphasise the need for greater discipline in the second half. Turan was booked late on for chopping down Messi and it could easily have been his second caution of the first 45 minutes. Koke had also been booked earlier for a foul on Neymar.

But there were also reasons for Barcelona to welcome the break. David Villa had his goalbound shot saved by Pinto in injury time and Bartra then upended the former Barcelona forward who was rising to the challenge of filling Costa’s boots in attack.

Juanfran soon became Atletico’s fourth booking of the night five minutes into the second half and defences continued to dominate with Bartra looking composed in place of Pique and Godin, the Uruguayan who England will face at the World Cup, imperious for Atletico.

Then the stalemate was broken. Gabi rolled a short free-kick to Diego Ribas and the substitute let fly from 30 yards out with a shot that bent back the fingers on Pinto’s outstretched hand as it made its way into the top corner.

Diego was re-signed by Atletico in the winter transfer window having enjoyed a loan spell at the club two seasons ago. His return had so far not been the glorious homecoming supporters had hope for, with his presence on the pitch coinciding with more setbacks than victories, but this was a goal worthy of a Champions League semi-final place and even the hobbling Costa jumped off the bench to celebrate it.

But the visitors’ lead did not last. A magical pass from Andres Iniesta inside Juanfran put Neymar clear and he swept the ball past Courtois to bring Barcelona back into the tie. Iniesta worked his magic again moments later when he shot from the edge of the area and somehow Courtois turned the ball around a post. Courtois had earlier saved brilliantly from Sergi Busquets and would tip a Messi free-kick over with four minutes left.

Diego Rivas was added to the referees’ list of Atletico names as Barcelona coach Martino threw on Alexis to run at the visitors in the last 15 minutes.

At the other end Pinto was the antithesis of Courtois’s poise but Atletico were finding it increasingly difficult to test him as they saw out the last five minutes camped in their own half.

The 1-1 favours them ahead of next week’s second leg. They will hope Costa can return to fitness but failing that they know, in Diego Rivas, they have a man whose confidence has never been higher and in Courtois they have Europe’s most in form goalkeeper.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention