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.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing