Barcelona’s title hopes were dealt a major blow on Saturday afternoon, after they were held to a goalless draw by league leaders Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.
It was Los Rojiblancos who enjoyed the majority of the first-half chances, with Marcos Llorente, Luis Suarez and Yannick Carrasco forcing Barça shot-stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into action. Lionel Messi almost rounded off a stunning solo run with the perfect finish, but Jan Oblak somehow diverted the ball wide, and the two teams headed into the dressing rooms level at half-time.
The second half was a closer battle, and it quickly became apparent that one goal would be enough for either team to snatch all three points. Ronald Araujo thought he’d won the game for Barça, but his header was ruled out for offside.
Atleti had the ball in the net seconds later, but the effort was disallowed for a foul in the build-up by Carrasco. Messi was next to threaten the goal, but his free-kick curled agonisingly past the post.
Neither side could land the killer blow in the final minutes, and the spoils were shared, leaving Diego Simeone’s side two points clear at the top of the table.
Let’s check out the player ratings.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 8/10 – Got down low to deny Llorente and Suarez in a quick-fire two minute burst. Stopped Carrasco too. Some huge moments in the first half which kept Barça level.
Oscar Mingueza (CB) – 5/10 – Struggled to cope with the canny movement of Suarez and the pace of Carrasco down that flank. Pulled apart by Atletico, and Ronald Koeman protected him by hooking him at half-time.
Gerard Pique (CB) – 8/10 – Threw his body on the line to stop Carrasco’s shot on target, sticking out a leg to turn the ball wide of the post. Vital. Flicked a header towards goal but couldn’t beat Oblak.
Clement Lenglet (CB) – 8/10 – Produced an unbelievable block from Correa’s goal-bound shot, toeing the ball just around the post. Goal-saving. Got his feet tangled when playing out from the back but just about drew the free-kick. Phew.
Sergino Dest (RWB) – 7/10 – Found some joy in the opening exchanges, showing trickery to beat his man. Took a whack on the foot which slowed him down.
Pedri (CM) – 6/10 – Couldn’t get on the ball in the first half, and the game very much passed him by. Not the man needed on the day. Substituted midway through the second half, and rightly so.
Sergio Busquets (CM) – 6/10 – Always wise to Atleti’s attempts of a counter-attack. Nipped in to stop moves at their core. Took a huge blow to the head and tried to soldier on, but made the right decision and eventually left the field.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 7/10 – Dropped into a more defensive role when Busquets departed, and appeared far less comfortable in trying to stop the counters. Did enough, though.
Jordi Alba (LWB) – 7/10 – Used his give-and-go routine to good effect, evading Trippier with a pass inside and a dart in behind. Contributed impressively.
Lionel Messi (ST) – 7/10 – Forced Saul into taking a yellow card for a cynical foul. Almost scored one of his best ever goals, but the finish was tipped wide of the near post by a whisker. Wow.
Antoine Griezmann (ST) – 6/10 – Took a snap-shot, but it’ll take more than that to beat Oblak. Couldn’t find enough space to make any sort of impact. Faded as the game progressed.
Ilaix Moriba (CM) – 6/10
Ronald Araujo (CB) – 6/10
Sergi Roberto (RWB) – 6/10
Ousmane Dembele (CM) – 5/10
Jan Oblak (GK) – 8/10 – Denied Messi one of his greatest ever goals with an equally impressive save, stretching to his left to tip the shot around the post. Miraculous.
Stefan Savic (CB) – 8/10 – Solid and battling. Didn’t give Griezmann a sniff in the first half and forced the Frenchman into cramming a second’s worth of work into a millisecond.
Felipe (CB) – 8/10 – Had a crack at goal late in the first half, and did his defending excellently. Impeccable, and a rock at the centre of Simeone’s backline.
Mario Hermoso (CB) – 7/10 – Left a mark on Dest with a nasty tackle on the wing-back. Kept Messi as quiet as a defender can for the first 45 minutes. Just what you’d expect, really.
Kieran Trippier (RWB) – 7/10 – Had to keep a close eye on Alba, and did enough, although the Spaniard did slip under his radar a couple of times. Didn’t get too many crossing opportunities.
Koke (CM) – 7/10 – Marshalled the midfield, breaking up play and keeping Barça’s stars in check. A leader and Simeone’s spirit among the warriors.
Marcos Llorente (CM) – 7/10 – The creative spark in the final third. Always looked to break in behind the backline and did so with perfect timing. Had a shot blocked and couldn’t pick out Suarez after finding space in the box.
Thomas Lemar (CM) – 6/10 – Started brightly in the opening minutes but pulled up with an early injury and couldn’t continue. Subbed off after 12 minutes.
Yannick Carrasco (LWB) – 8/10 – Showed his pace to dart behind the defence and cut the ball back to Llorente. Nice movement. Beat his man and fizzed a shot at goal, but Ter Stegen was up to the task. Never stopped terrorising, and the best outfield player on the pitch.
Angel Correa (ST) – 6/10 – Buzzed around the Barça rearguard, causing endless problems and generally tiring out the ageing Pique and inexperienced Mingueza.
Luis Suarez (ST) – 6/10 – Wasted an early free-kick, curling straight into Ter Stegen’s hands. Tried his luck from a tight angle, but couldn’t beat the shot-stopper. Slapped a volleyed effort just wide from outside the box.
Saul Niguez (CM) – 5/10
Joao Felix (LWB) – 7/10
Geoffrey Kondogbia (CM) – 7/10