Barcelona managed a priceless away win at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal, beating the capital club 2-1 thanks to sensational goals from forwards Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
Close to 50,000 fans were present at the Vicente Calderon for the epic last-four clash but most of them were silenced as the visitors raced into a two-goal lead before half-time.
Suarez scored the first in breathtaking fashion, as Javier Mascherano dispossessed Antoine Griezmann in the Barca half, releasing the Uruguayan striker who sprinted through on goal from the halfway line. Beating not one but two Atletico defenders for pace before toe-poking his shot in the corner, Suarez showed Barcelona aren't just about tiki-taka but can be deadly on the counter as well.
Both sides had fielded strong line ups with Atletico lining up in their standard narrow 4-4-2 formation while Barcelona trotted out in their usual 4-3-3.
And just as the home side were beginning to grow into the game, Messi produced a moment of magic in the 33rd minute which might just make it mission impossible for Atletico in the second leg. Ivan Raktic’s cut back from the right flank found the Argentine near the edge of the box surrounded by three Atletico defenders. Yet Barcelona’s talisman was able to unleash a hammer of a shot, which went in off the post, leaving Miguel Angel Moya with no time to react.
Barcelona have enjoyed a superior head-to-head against the Rojiblancos in domestic competitions of late and that streak never seemed to be in danger of snapping despite Antoine Griezmann’s getting a goal back for the hosts with a 59th-minute header. The French forward scored from close range after Gabi had headed across goal and while the strike keeps Atletico in the tie, it is the Catalans who hold all the aces ahead of next week’s second leg. Despite the capital club desperately pushing for an equaliser, Barcelona managed to hold on to plant one foot firmly in the final.
The second semifinal will be played between Celta Vigo and Deportivo Alaves on Thursday night.