Atlético Madrid set an undesirable record.
Tuesday night’s pulsating four-goal draw at Barcelona meant the club set a new mark for draws in a single season. Atlético shared the spoils for the 14th time in 33 games and snapped its four-game winning streak. In addition, Los Colchoneros handed initiative to Real Madrid in the title race, and Jan Oblak will likely lose his grip on the Zamora Trophy awarded for fewest goals conceded.
Remove a handful of these draws, and we might find Atlético in a heated chase for the league championship. Still, this one away to Barça represents the first time in nearly four years in which Atlético left Camp Nou without losing. It’s a valuable point, too, as it keeps Diego Simeone’s crew two points ahead of Sevilla with five games to go. The next run of games — home to Mallorca, away to Celta Vigo, home to Real Betis — are all very winnable, and thus rank higher in importance.
Yannick Carrasco is re-emerging as a prime squad member.
“The Carrasco of years past is rediscovering his best form. The team played the game we trained for and talked about.”
Simeone seemed satisfied with his side’s somewhat uneven but decidedly intense performance. Atlético counterattacked with delicious incision, bypassing Barcelona’s midfield with surprising ease and breezing into the space behind the hosts’ high line. Carrasco was key in this regard.
The blazing Belgian provoked both of his team’s goals, drawing a 15th minute foul on Arturo Vidal (after shoving Gerard Piqué out of his way) and going down (under very minor contact) as Nélson Semedo trailed him 45 minutes later.
Carrasco completed 23 of his 26 short passes, completed three dribbles, drew three fouls and even made a couple tackles. A committed Carrasco is a really dangerous player, and he adds an electric quality if his attitude is the right one. Right now, he’s making the club’s surprising decision to re-acquire him on loan look pretty smart.
Saúl loves a goal against Barça.
On the night when he cracked the top 30 on Atlético’s all-time appearances register, Saúl:
- scored his first league penalty
- scored his second and third career goals against Barcelona
- notched his first two-goal game for Atlético
Saúl might not have gotten on the board at all had it not been for Diego Costa. After the striker nutmegged himself and put Lionel Messi’s 12th minute corner into his net, he saw his initial penalty land right in Marc-André Ter Stegen’s breadbasket. But the German had stepped off the goal line, and Saúl sent him the wrong way on the retake.
The 25-year-old had to do it again after Atleti fell behind. On 50 minutes, Messi converted a penalty of his own, a panenka, after Felipe swiped at Semedo’s ankle. But Carrasco saved the day with a — shall we say — clever sleight of foot, allowing Saúl to power home spot kick #2.
Saúl has blown past his previous career-best and now sits on six goals this season — only Álvaro Morata has struck more in LaLiga. Not sure if that reflects better on the midfielder or worse on the €50 million forward.
BAR XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Lenglet, Piqué, Alba; Vidal (Griezmann 90’), Rakitić (Sergi Roberto 62’), Busquets (Fati 84’); Puig; Messi, Suárez.
Goals: Costa 12’ (own goal), Messi 50’ (pen.)
ATM XI: Oblak; Arias, Felipe, Giménez, Lodi; Thomas, Saúl, Correa (Vitolo 84’), Carrasco (Lemar 84’); Llorente (Félix 69’), Costa (Morata 76’).
Goals: Saúl 19’ (pen.) 62’ (pen.)