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Second-placed Barcelona won 2-1 at Vicente Calderon over Atletico Madrid in Sunday’s match. The Liga champions keeps the 10 points distance to the leading team, Real Madrid. The `blancos´ won over their neighbors in Vallecas 1-0 thanks to a clever Cristiano Ronaldo backhell.
Guardiola´s players controlled the possession of the ball, making passes during the first 40 minutes. But their speed circulation was not quick enough to break the spider web strategy built by Cholo Simeone who had his players chasing Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Busquest.
Xavi warned Atletico with a tricky shot close to the left post of the Belgian Curtois in the second minute. Five minutes later, Messi was disallowed a goal by referee Perez Lasa who claimed that the Argentina used his hand to help control the ball.
Barcelona had their first chance with a curling free-kick by Xavi in front of the box in the twentieth minute, but Curtois made a good save. In a raid by Dani Alves, he managed to connect with Messi in goal centre, attracting three Altetico players, and lay the ball for Cesc Fabregas who assisted Alves’ goal inside the goal in the thirty-sixth minute.
Simeone took charge, stripping out the corset of their players, but Atletico Madrid was struggling to control the ball and they only could feed Colombia striker Falcao with long crosses, challenged by Mascherarno and Puyol.
Atletico improved after the break and Simeone put forward the lines to press Barcelona’s possession. A Gabi corner curled into the box to be met after few rejections by Falcao who volleyed home from close range.
Barcelona seemed nervous and imprecise, loosing control of the ball after the draw. Atletico kept pressing up higher and won the ball in Barcelona’s territory. Falcao had a change in front of Valdez but it was offside in the thirteenth minute. Alexis replied by heading the ball close to the angle after good delivery from Dani Alves.
Moments later, Falcao had his chance to score a second time, but Valdes made a great save. Nine minutes before the end, the genius of Messi appeared and the Argentina made a free kick on the left edge of the area as Atletico’s players were preparing their wall. However, Messi did not ask for wall and surprised Curtois with an excellent shot into the far corner of the net.
Barcelona suffered the last minutes with Atletico throwing all players forward. Vales was the game’s hero, saving the victory on two occasions: once against a close range shot from Juanfran inside the small box; and once against a long range shot from Gabi outside the box. There was also a clear hand-ball (penalty) by Barça player Busquets in the Atletico area later which was not called.
Barcelona is still chasing Real Madrid, while Atletico’s impressive seven games unbeaten with Simeone as manager ends.
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