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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent