Barca edge nine-man Atletico in 5 goal thriller

Barca edge nine-man Atletico in 5 goal thriller

Thursday, January 29, 2015 12:15 am

Neymar, with Lionel Messi

Neymar, with Lionel Messi

Neymar bagged a double as Barcelona twice came from behind to book their place in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 3-2 win over nine-man Atletico Madrid to seal a 4-2 aggregate victory.

Fernando Torres struck for the hosts inside the first minute to cancel out Lionel Messi’s winner in last week’s first leg, but Neymar grabbed a vital away goal just nine minutes later.

Raul Garcia briefly restored Atletico’s lead from the penalty spot, but Barca were in front by half-time thanks to a Miranda own goal and a wonderful counter-attack rounded off by Neymar.

Atletico captain Gabi was then sent-off during half-time as players and coaches from both sides clashed at the end of the first period.

The home side should have been reduced to nine men earlier when Arda Turan somehow escaped with just a yellow card after throwing his boot at one of the officials in the second-half, but did eventually see another red card when Mario Suarez picked up a second booking late on.

“I liked the way the team reacted after conceding in a strange way in the first minute,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.

“Neymar showed the attitude he always does. He is a player with a lot of confidence and helps us all in all phases of the game.”

Torres scored twice in the first minute of each half of the second leg as Atletico dumped city rivals Real Madrid out of the competition in the previous round and he repeated the trick after just 38 seconds.

The former Chelsea striker latched onto Guilherme Siqueira’s clearance and skipped past Javier Mascherano before volleying in off the far post to register his first goal at the Vicente Calderon since rejoining his boyhood club.

Barca responded in fine style to that early blow, though, as a slick move sparked by Messi saw Luis Suarez release Neymar in behind the Atletico defence and he calmly slotted home for his 20th goal of the season.

Atletico were given a lifeline when Juanfran was bodychecked by Mascherano and Jesus Gil Manzano pointed to the spot despite the contact appearing to take place outside the area and Garcia confidently stepped up to slam home the spot-kick.

The lead again only lasted only eight minutes, though, as Miranda could only turn Messi’s corner into his own net.

The game then turned definitively in Barca’s favour when Manzano didn’t award a second penalty when Griezmann’s shot hit Jordi Alba on the arm.

Barca then broke upfield and Alba squared for Neymar to dance round Jan Oblak before rolling home his second goal of the evening.

Tempers flared when Manzano brought an exhilarating first-half to an end with Gabi failing to return for the second period having been sent-off in the tunnel.

“I just said to the referee it was a penalty and a red card, you will see on TV that you have made a mistake,” Gabi told Canal Plus.

“Then he told me that I was sent-off. I didn’t say anything else. The team was left with an numerical disadvantage and you could see that in the second-half.”

Diego Simeone’s men were extremely fortunate to not then go down to nine men when Turan incredibly threw his boot at an assistant referee for failing to award the hosts a free-kick.

The Turkish international was shown a yellow card by Manzano, which should also mean he will escape retrospective punishment as the incident was seen by the referee.

Barca comfortably saw out the remaining 40 minutes by dominating possession and should have added to their tally when Messi shot straight at Oblak 20 minutes from time.

Suarez was then dismissed four minutes from the end when Messi was upended for the umpteenth time as Atletico continued to lose their discipline.

Next up for Barcelona will be a semi-final meeting with Villarreal or Getafe, who play the second leg of their quarter-final on Thursday.

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