Publish: 22 Nov 2020, 11:46 am
Atletico Madrid provided a big boost to their chances of winning La Liga on Saturday by defeating Barcelona 1-0 and consigning their rivals to their worst start of the league season in 29 years.
Yannick Carrasco finished beautifully in range after the errors of Gerard Pique and Marc-Andre ter Stegen left the goal gaping, but Barca and Lionel Messi had not responded to Wanda Metropolitano, reports AFP.
Instead, Atletico recorded their first league win over Barcelona in 10 years, bringing them three points clear of Real Madrid, with a game in hand, and the second in the standings, a point equal with Real Sociedad's early leaders.
It also leaves their opponents languided in 10th position, with 11 points in Barcelona from their first eight games at their worst since the 1991-92 season.
“Like any coach, I am responsible,” said coach Ronald Koeman. “We know we have to improve the results. I continue to trust the players I have.”
Real Madrid had previously been taken to a 1-1 draw by the in-form Villarreal, another slip-up for the defending champions to assert that this could be the year of Atletico.
And defeating Barcelona in La Liga for the first time since 2010—before Simeone arrived as a coach—will do wonders about the team's confidence and extend what is now a significant lead in the standings.
It also extends Atletico’s unbeaten run in the league to 24 matches.
“Today we were able to win but it absolutely doesn’t change anything,” said Simeone. “We’re working well and I’m excited about this team.”
Another disappointing day for Barca was soured further by the sight of Pique hobbling off in tears with what the club said was a “sprained right knee”.
Pique was hurt during a collision with Angel Correa and was in distress as he departed.
“I am worried,” said Koeman. “A lot of damage has been done.”
Antoine Griezmann almost positioned Barca in front of his old club when Marcos Llorente walked closer to Atletico, skimming the crossbar after a tidy interchange between Kieran Trippier and Correa on the right.
Messi may have scored but was uncharacteristically tentative, with half as many to end goalless as two mistakes had given Atletico the lead.
Pique was caught out of position after a heavy touch and Mario Hermoso did well to free Carrasco. Ter Stegen, already upfield, rushed out to fill the gap Pique had left but Carrasco’s first touch feathered the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs before a curling finish from 50 yards sent the ball into the open net.
Clement Lenglet was expected to have equalized but headed Messi's cross straight to Jan Oblak, but Barcelona was far from dominant, and Messi battled with his normal control.
Philippe Coutinho walked in and Pique hobbled off. Messi floating a free-kick and had a shot blocked before substituting Martin Braithwaite was given a late chance after a bad kick by the Oblak. Yet Barca was unable to find a way around it.
– Real slip up again –
Earlier, a patched-up Real Madrid had to hang on for a draw against Villarreal.
Mariano Diaz gave Madrid the lead after just 105 seconds but Zinedine Zidane’s team faded at La Ceramica and Villarreal claimed a deserved point through Gerard Moreno’s second-half penalty.
“It feels like a small reward,” said Zidane. “We deserved more today for the game we played. I’m annoyed because of the effort from the boys.”
Mariano was almost sold last summer but had to hold up for Karim Benzema, who was injured, and Luka Jovic, who was found positive for coronavirus on Friday.
After the international break, Sergio Ramos, Eder Militao and Casemiro were all absent, leaving Nacho Fernandez and unfit Raphael Varane to fill in at the back, while Martin Odegaard made a rare start in the centre.
Given the absentees, Zidane does not worry too much about a draw, particularly against the buoyant Villarreal side who was second at the kick-off after four rebound victories.
Yet another slip means that Madrid won just three of its last seven games in all competitions, including a vital visit to Inter Milan to the Champions League on Wednesday.