A real humdinger of a game saw Atletico Madrid go down 2-1 against Barcelona in their Copa del Rey semifinal first leg at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday night. Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi scored wonderful individual goals in what was a wretched first half from Los Colchoneros, but their second-half rally was a sight to behold. Antoine Griezmann pulled one back and only profligate finishing cost them a draw (or better). All to play for come Tuesday's return fixture.
The way the side responded in the second period was marvellous and the atmosphere created by the Calderon faithful was top-drawer. Atleti created chances and will take heart from that going into the second leg -- from which the suspended Neymar will be absent.
That first half. Granted, Barcelona were out of this world, but Atletico simply were not at the races. Stefan Savic, Saul Niguez and Sime Vrsaljko all continue to be a concern.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Diego Simeone's starting XI did not work at all, but his tactical tweaks at half-time more than rectified that. Even managed to get a tune out of Fernando Torres -- and for that he gets an extra mark.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Miguel Moya, 7 -- Helpless for both goals but pulled off a stunning save from Messi's free kick to keep his side in it.
DF Sime Vrsaljko, 5 -- Given the run around by the Barca frontline in the first period. Having said that, was unfortunate to be hooked at half-time as there were plenty of other candidates.
DF Stefan Savic, 4 -- Has a negative effect on the defence. Should have shown more game intelligence and hauled Suarez down in the build-up to the early goal. Instead, he let him glide past as if he were not there and that set the tone for his display.
DF Diego Godin, 6 -- Not comfortable next to Savic and it told early on. Like the team, was noticeably better after the break, and his precise header assisted Griezmann.
DF Filipe Luis, 7 -- Recovered well after a nervous first period as Atleti overloaded down the left and targeted Sergi Roberto. Should have bagged an assist when Griezmann fired straight at the goalkeeper from close in.
MF Juanfran, 6 -- Spent most of the first half trying to help Vrsaljko contain Messi, but looked more at home at full-back with the half-time reshuffle. Attacked well, albeit Jordi Alba often had his number.
MF Koke, 7 -- Hamstrung at times by Saul's incompetence and noticeably improved once he was replaced. Showed how streetwise a footballer he is in the second period with a cute tug on Suarez to allow Godin a free header to tee up Griezmann and also made several tactical fouls that prevented Barca from breaking.
MF Gabi, 8 -- Like Koke, got better once Saul was out of the picture. Brilliant after the break and dominated midfield. Pressed, harried and rushed Barcelona, plus his set piece delivery was spot on. Unfortunately, was booked and will miss the return leg -- a big loss.
MF Saul Niguez, 3 -- Is in wretched form and the fact that Los Rojiblancos looked much better without him speaks volumes.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 -- The definition of a mixed bag. Lost the ball for Suarez's opener, however then made up for it with a goal of his own. Denied from point-blank range when he should have done better and had five mad minutes in which he gave away two stupid free kicks on the edge of the own box. Still had time to make a goal-saving tackle on Messi with a couple of minutes left on the clock before grazing the post with a long-range effort.
FW Yannick Carrasco, 5 -- Started as a forward, where he was ineffectual, but got into the game more with the half-time reshuffle. Albeit too often looked like he had his boots on the wrong feet with erratic control and passing.
Fernando Torres (for Vrsaljko), 7 -- Where has this version of Torres been hiding since 2011? Demonstrated seldom seen pace, power and aggression that were once his trademark. Went close on a couple of occasions and fired narrowly wide when he should have hit the target.
Nicolas Gaitan (for Saul), 6 -- Far better than the man he replaced, but that was not hard. Showed good attacking intent.
Kevin Gameiro (for Carrasco), 5 -- Missed a volley that a €35 million striker should be burying late on.