Feb 2, 2017

Lionel Messi against Atletico Madrid in Copa Del Rey Semi-Final

- Lionel Messi running past Atletico Defenders -

Barcelona Football Club took a giant step in securing a place in the final of the Copa Del Rey 2016-17 with a brilliant 2-1 victory against Atletico Madrid away from home. The clash at the Vicente Calderon arena was decided in favour of FC Barcelona by two brilliant goals from Barca's two top scorers this season - Luis Saurez and Lionel Messi. Barca went 2-0 up by around half an hour in to the clock before Greizman reduced the deficit in the second half. The tie is very interestingly poised with Barca in the front street after securing a first leg victory and also two away goal advantage. Barca could afford to lose the return leg 1-0 and still make the final courtesy of those two sensational away goals. The fun part of all it is that Mascherano and Rakitic are awarded the assists for those goals when their contribution was nothing less than minimal. We will come to that later.

With Iniesta injury keeping him out of the side we started with more or less with an expected starting eleven. The cup keeper Cillessen guarded the goal; in-front of him the defense lined-up with Roberto, Pique, Umtiti and Alba. The midfield saw Mascherano playing the Busquets role, who missed out again due to injury. The Argentinian were partnered by Rakitic and Gomes in the midfield. The forward line had no change with Messi, Saurez and Neymar all securing their place. As far as Barca's performance was considered, this match can be termed as "One of Two Halves"; even though it would be a bit of exaggeration. We were extremely dominant in teh first but less so in second; but then it wasn't like we were over-run. Atletico Madrid started as expected brightly and there were a fear that Barca would be put on enormous early pressure by the home side. But nothing of that sort happened and Barca easily took control of the game with Messi running the show dropping deep.

The first goal came in spectacular fashion in the 7th minute courtesy of Luis Saurez. Mascherano assisted a bit in that goal; Mascherano won the ball in our half with a tackle cum poke which directed the ball towards Luis Saurez. From then it was an exhibition of the awareness, skill and finishing of Luis Saurez; the Uruguayan strike allowed the ball to move forward without even touching drawing defenders to him and played the ball around the on rushing Savic and finished with brilliancy. You definitely should watch the video; which I will be uploading shortly. From then on the match was in total control of Barca - Neymar did threaten twice even-though the second time he would have done better had he left the pass from Saurez to Messi; for who it was meant for. Then in the 33rd minute, Messi increased the lead to 2-0 with a brilliant goal from outside the box; something we haven't seen for sometime.

Diego Simeone brought in Torres in early in second half and there were serious change in home side's attacking instinct from then. Torres and Gabi combine together in the 50th minute to create a clear cut chance with a delightful back-heel from Torres which put Gabi with on the keeper to beat; but before he could strike Alba came from nowhere to to poke the ball out. Barcelona on the other end was creating the occasional threats but was not as dominant as they were in the first half; which was understandable in a two leg tie. In the 59th minute Atletico Madrid reduced the deficit from the most expected source - a set-piece. The free kick was taken somewhere around the middle of park, Godin who was unmarked in far right headed it towards center where Griezman timed his jump beating the keeper. Barcelona responded immediately with Neymar forcing a save from Atletico keeper. In the 76th minute Messi had his brilliant freekick tipped on to the bar by the keeper. The last ten minutes saw frantic attack from the home side for an equalizer but Barca defense was able to keep all the half-chances at bay.

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