Koke's early goal knocked out a ragged Barcelona and sent Atletico Madrid into their first European Cup semi-final for 40 years
Barcelona trudge off and their players don't seem have fully digested what has just happened. They're out, beaten, outplayed, out-fought and, at times, outclassed by this astonishing Atletico Madrid side. No one is going want to play them now. Thanks for reading. Good night.
It's over! It's all over! Atletico Madrid have beaten Barcelona! They're in the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in 40 years!
90 min+3: Barcelona have been reduced to hit and hope balls forward. This is what Atletico have done to them. It's almost done. Dani Alves has been booked.
90 min+2: The ball is deep in Barcelona's corner. Mascherano has been booked. Barcelona look beaten. One more minute.
90 min+1: For crying out loud. From their own free-kick, Barcelona contrive to give a way a corner in a matter of seconds. This has been a particularly oafish display.
90 min: Rodriguez almost seals it for Atletico, running on to a ball over the top and hammering an effort at Pinto, who pushes the shot behind for a corner. Atletico will take their sweet time over it. Koke is booked for delaying a Barcelona free-kick.
89 min: Pedro chips an incompetent cross into the area. Courtois catches. Barcelona have gone. To be honest, they went ages ago.
87 min: There are loud groans as Felipe Luis heads behind for a corner. I'm not sure why. Barcelona aren't a threat from them.
85 min: "Why is Dani Alves constantly lobbing crosses in?" says Harvey Kelly. "Barcelona have the 5'7" Messi. Alves' brain seems to have become even more disjointed." You say that, but it's the closest Barcelona have come to scoring.
84 min: The camera locates Barcelona's fans with glum expressions on their faces and their heads in their hands. And then cuts to flag-waving, jumping, chanting Atletico fans. It's an image that sums up the difference between the sides.
83 min: Atletico are now camped inside their own third. But there's just no way through the thicket of bodies for Barcelona.
81 min: Alexis helps on a ball into the area. Messi is there - and so is Courtois.
79 min: Christian Rodriguez replaces David Villa, who is knackered.
78 min: The commentator's curse almost strikes. Alexis crosses from the right and Neymar dashes in front of Miranda to send a diving header inches wide. Sorry, I'll shut up.
77 min: Barcelona's attacks don't carry much conviction. I suspect they are running out of ideas.
74 min: Dani Alves heatseeker from long range is deflected wide by Gabi. The corner comes to nothing. Heroic is probably a weird word to use in the context of a football match, but it applies to Atletico tonight - in fact, it applies to them this season, however it turns in the end. They have run themselves into the ground tonight, giving their supporters everything. What a time to be an Atletico fan. What a ridiculous team.
73 min: Pedro replaces Andres Iniesta for Barcelona.
71 min: Howard Webb's at it again! Villa charges into the area from the left, shields the ball from Mascherano and is then ludicrously barged over by the Argentinian. A blatant penalty if we weren't playing Howard Webb Rules. The ball stays alive in the area though and it takes a block from Bartra to deny Koke.
70 min: Atletico let Barcelona off the hook again. Gabi suddenly finds himself clear down the left, with Villa unmarked to his right. But then the goal suddenly presents itself to him as Barcelona's two defenders find themselves more preoccupied with marking Villa. Gabi decides to shoot, seeking the far corner, but Pinto saves with his legs!
69 min: "You would bring Alexis or Pedro," says Hauke Wemken. "Well, I would start Pedro in every game. One of the big underrated players in Europe." Yeah, I agree. Allowing for rotation, of course. I don't get why he isn't used more in these big games - he is such an ice-cold finisher and so often decisive.
68 min: It's an anti-climax. Messi, who is having a quiet evening, plops his free-kick straight into the wall.
67 min: Barcelona are running out of time, you know, and an equaliser is not exactly on the cards. Although Tiago has just brought Messi down around 25 yards from goal, in a central position. The Atletico fans become a bit more quiet.
65 min: Diego almost puts the tie out of reach for Barcelona with his first involvement in the game. He pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area and burst past Busquets on the right, working space for a shot from a tight angle. He let fly but Pinto beat the ball back to the Brazilian, who wins a corner off Bartra. From the corner, Godin rises high but heads straight at Pinto.
64 min: There is no room for any loose touches or dithering on the ball. Atletico are almost anticipating passes before they have happened. They are so hungry.
62 min: Atletico respond by bring on Diego, scorer of that goal last week, for Adrian, whose race is run.
61 min: Maybe I am Tata Martino. Who knows? Barcelona replace the ineffective Cesc Fabregas with Alexis Sanchez.
60 min: Xavi misses an excellent chance to equalise for Barcelona. Alves chips a lovely cross into the Atletico area and Gabi loses Xavi, who glances a tame header wide of the far post. He really should have scored. The Atletico fans stop bouncing up and down for 0.000000000001 seconds and then start bouncing up and down again.
58 min: If I was Tata Martino - and I'm not - I'd be getting Alexis or Pedro on.
56 min: A pattern is forming, Barcelona pressing and Atletico sitting and waiting to counter.
54 min: There has been a marked improvement from Barcelona in this half. They won't go quietly. But Atletico won't either. This is fascinatingly poised. Atletico certainly don't look they'll choke, so Barcelona are going to have to play extremely well to emerge from this match victorious.
51 min: Barcelona attack again and a ball into the middle causes more havoc, with Alba sniffing around. Courtois is in a bit of a tangle, but Atletico are given a free-kick for handball.
49 min: ... Seconds later, Barcelona are threatening again. A deflected cross from the right has Courtois in all sort of trouble and when the ball drops into the six-yard box, Xavi scoops over the bar. It's hard to be critical as he was falling over and didn't catch the ball properly.
48 min: Here we go. Xavi starts a lightning Barcelona move with a gorgeous turn in his own half. He finds Messi, who scampers through the middle, before returning it to Xavi, who then threads a preposterous pass through to Neymar, who is through on goal. He could dink it over the onrushing Courtois but instead tries to take it round him. He didn't count on the huge Belgian clawing the ball away from him. The rebound falls to Messi but he can't get a shot away, four Atletico defenders snuffing out the danger. But...
47 min: Koke is a rather good player by the way. He reads an attempted trick by Alves easily to steal possession in Barcelona's half but the pass back to him from Adrian isn't accurate enough.
46 min: Let's go again. Barcelona get the second half going. They have to score to take this game at least to extra-time. Otherwise Atletico Madrid are in the semi-final of the Champions League.
"I should preface this by saying Cesc was becoming a starter at Arsenal right at the same time I became a fan, so he will always hold a special place in my heart as the player who helped me fall in love with the game," says Brendan c Pulsford. "As poor as Cesc has been this match, I would imagine he's been put in because of his ability to play that final ball so well--which is why he is tied for second in assists across Europe. That's not to say Pedro or Sanchez wouldn't have done better in this match, but I see the appeal of having him play as a false nine as he offers so many options: he's a goal threat (albeit one without pace), he can thread passes through to Messi/Neymar cutting in from the wings, and he can drop into midfield to help retain the ball."
The problem is he slows Barcelona down and compromises Iniesta. They have enough players to create - they also need players who can run at defences and who give them width. It's been very easy for Atletico and it often is for Barcelona's opponents when Fabregas plays in this sort of role. They were at their best in the 4-3-3 of 2008-11 under Pep Guardiola but have tinkered too much. Not that Fabregas isn't good enough to do something special, tonight or in the future.
The corner comes to nothing and that's the cue for Howard Webb to bring the first half to a close. The whistle is greeted by a huge roar by the Atletico Madrid fans, who have seen their side go very close to humiliating Barcelona. But it's not over yet. Atletico are going through as it stands but this tie would be over if they had taken their chances. As it is, Barcelona, not because of anything they have done, have 45 minutes to turn the game around.
45 min+1: Iniesta launches a pass towards Neymar, forcing Juanfran to head behind for a corner. There's not much time to take it.
45 min: There will be one more minute of this frenzied first half.
44 min: Alves crosses from the right and Godin heads away for a corner with Fabregas lurking. He then starts jabbing his finger towards Fabregas, claiming he dived a minute ago. The replays don't do Fabregas's case much good.
43 min: This will be worth another look. Fabregas turned inside the area on the right and immediately fell over what may have been an outstretched leg. Once again, Howard Webb isn't interested but I haven't seen a replay.
41 min: Atletico scream for a penalty - well, their fans do – as Adrian dashes past Mascherano in the area, before falling under a flimsy challenge. Howard Webb correctly awards a goal-kick. "What the hell is Fabregas doing out there against this defence,,, i am no expert but Martino must be genius or utter fool not to have speed of Pedro / Alexis in for sluggishness of Fabregas... here is to hoping he proves me wrong," says Trinath Sen. Fabregas has been completely pointless. I don't see what he gives them.
40 min: Neymar tees up Alves for a cross on the right. Goal-kick to Atletico. "I'm right with you on the whole attitude to defenders at Barcelona malarky," says Matt Dony. "Galacticos era Madrid couldn't defend, but attacked in floods and scored bucket-loads, and it all seemed great fun. Barcelona, however, manage to suck all the fun out of recklessness."
38 min: It is noticeable, mind you, that Atletico have stepped off a little. It's hard to play at 100mph for 90 minutes and Barcelona have controlled the game to a certain degree for the last 10 minutes or so. When Atletico suddenly show up in Barcelona's half for the first time in a while, Garcia nicks a loose ball off Gabi's toes and shanks a volley off towards the touchline from 30 yards.
36 min: UNIDENTIFIED BARCELONA PLAYER shoots from 25 yards out. It's a dreadful effort, dribbling well wide. "I don't have any stats to back this up, but Atletico seem to be playing what appear to be hopeful long balls out from the back," says Brad McMillan. "It's working beautifully, as every time it goes near a Barca defender, there are instantly 2 or 3 attackers hounding him. In my opinion, it's a perfectly judged use of an unpopular tactic, and I think it's great." Play to your strengths - and your opponent's weaknesses.
35 min: Barcelona are suddenly having a lot of the ball but it's possession of the sterile variety. Their passing isn't especially quick or purposeful and they are struggling to pick their way through this defence.
33 min: Barcelona look lost.
31 min: Barcelona's players crowd Howard Webb after Garcia clumps Neymar. But England's finest won't be intimidated like that! No yellow card! "The delicious irony with Mascherano, the converted midfielder, is that he was never remotely good enough at passing to play for Barcelona in whatever position," says Philip Podolsky. "My least favorite signing by them since Richard Dutruel."
31 min: Crosses from Dani Alves feels like a low-percentage tactic from Barcelona. Atletico won't mind them doing that.
29 min: A sign of how rattled Barcelona are comes when Iniesta lets a simple pass roll under his foot and out for a throw. You have to worry when that sort of thing is happening. Unless you're an Atletico Madrid fan. "I won't stop you because you're absolutely right," says Pauline Shaw. "And a goalkeeper... this is painful to watch."
27 min: A rare error in their own half from Atletico, conceding possession cheaply, gives Iniesta a chance to run at their defence, but his shot from 20 yards lacks the power to trouble Courtois.
25 min: Meanwhile Neymar is limping and grimacing a bit after that run. He might have been caught on his way through, but I imagine he'll be fine to continue. These things have a way of working themselves out.
24 min: As much of a horror show Barcelona are at the back, they still have Neymar and Messi up front. Neymar tries to inject some urgency into their game with a wonderful run down the left flank. He manages to hold off Miranda, keeping possession when he seemed certain to lose it, and then produces an outrageous piece of skill to nutmeg Tiago. Off balance, he then bobbles a low cross into the six-yard box to Messi, who almost seems to shin well wide of the near post! Messi could have scored twice, you know.
22 min: I've said it before and you can't stop me from saying it again: Barcelona's arrogant refusal to sign any defenders and play midfielders there instead is a betrayal of their attacking players. Such idiocy is impossible to comprehend.
19 min: Atletico Madrid hit the woodwork for the third time! This is absurd. With Barcelona now pretty much having given up on defending, Adrian sends a header down the inside-right channel to the onrushing Villa. He dashes past a training cone and then, from a tight angle, he pings a preposterous volley off the bar, Pinto standing and watching in hope. Villa can't believe it. What a goal that would have been. So unlucky.
18 min: After a spell of Barcelona possession is broken up, Adrian bustles up field, romping through the challenges and forcing Busquets to bring him down cynically. Busquets is booked.
17 min: Lionel Messi is playing on the right for Barcelona, with Cesc Fabregas floating about in the middle, getting in the way of things, clogging moves up and generally proving to be a bit of an irrelevance. Until he scores and makes me look dumb.
16 min: Someone is banging a drum and it is very loud.
15 min: Barcelona look to calm things down with a spell of tiki-taka. They're not going anywhere but they'll be glad the ball's absolutely nowhere near their goal right now, because they look like conceding whenever it is. The only question is whether Atletico can maintain this intensity.
13 min: And here's the danger for Atletico. They should be out of sight already but might they regret those misses? They certainly will if they defend like this again. Dani Alves is allowed to cross from the right and when he does, Messi is left alone in the middle, only for him to head wide from eight yards. That's a bad miss from the world's best player.
11 min: David Villa hits the post! Barcelona are pathetic. They don't know what's hit them. It's just wave after wave of attacks from Atletico Madrid, a red and white blur utterly overwhelming the visitors, who simply do not have a clue at the moment. This time, Koke slips a pass through to Villa on the left and he should score against his former club, only to crunch a left-footed shot high against the post, the ball pranging miles out the area. This tie could be over already.
10 min: Of course, in a way, going behind doesn't really change Barcelona's task...
8 min: When you're under the cosh as Barcelona are, what you don't need is your clown of a goalkeeper to start playing silly buggers with the ball at his feet. Jose Pinto, miserably failing to read the seriousness of the situation, decides to entertain the crowd with his dribbling skills around three yards from his goal and is this far from being robbed by a snorting, screaming, murderous Koke.
7 min: Dearie me, Barcelona's defence is an egregious disgrace and Atletico are all over them like a rash. Once again a high ball finds Barcelona in a flap and Koke's shot on the turn is deflected not too far over. This is incredible.
Barcelona are a shambles! But what's new there? Who needs Diego Costa! Not Atletico Madrid! This is absolutely absurd. A long ball from the back finds Barcelona all over the place at the back. It's flicked on and through to Adrian, who has to score. But he smashes a volley against the bar! The rebound eventually comes to Villa on the left and he twists past his man before crossing to Adrian, who heads back across goal to Koke, who blasts it past Pinto! Oh my! If there was a roof on the Vicente Calderon, it would have come off.
4 min: What an effort from Raul Garcia! He accepts a throw-in from the right and lets the ball run across his body before turning and fizzing a dipping volley not too far over the bar at all. It might be best to adopt a shoot-on-sight policy with Jose Pinto keeping goal for Barcelona.
3 min: To no one's great surprise, Xavi's free-kick is headed away. But Barcelona keep pressing. Messi finds a bit of space 25 yards out and spanks one high and wide. He's not scored in his past five matches against Atletico.
2 min: Barcelona, those old hands, are looking to take the sting out of this early on. They're content with some safe possession in midfield. Atletico are going to be so hard to break down, though. And hard, too. Jordi Alba tries to dart inside and is promptly fouled by Raul Garcia, who glares at the Barcelona man as he lies on the floor. Barcelona have a free-kick on the left.
And we're off! Howard Webb blows his whistle - it's just about possible to make it out over this din – and Atletico Madrid, in red and white stripes and blue shorts, kick off. They're attacking from left to right in the first half. Barcelona are all in black and it's not long before they have the ball, a development which is greeted with piercing whistles by the home fans.
What an atmosphere! Hhhhhhwhat an atmosphere!
Here come the teams, walking out into a heaving Vicente Calderon. This crowd could make a difference tonight. They've not seen a match like this in these part for years. This is going to be good.
"Do you know how the whole loan thing works between clubs of other nations?" says Oliver Pattenden. "Specifically, if Atlético go through and get Chelsea in the next round, can they field Courtois?"
Unless I'm wrong, I think so. Amusingly Fernando Morientes knocked out Real Madrid when he was on loan at Monaco in 2004.
Tonight is Andres Iniesta's 500th appearance for Barcelona. He's always been one for the big occasion.
But what does it all mean? Well, without Diego Costa, it's left to Adrian Lopez to lead the line for Atletico Madrid against that rickety Barcelona defence, where Marc Bartra partners Gerard Pique. Here, why haven't they bothered buying a def... oh, I can't be bothered. Meanwhile a lot of Barcelona fans seemed to want Pedro and Alexis start instead of Neymar and Cesc Fabregas, but Tata Martino remains unmoved. It often feels like passing overkill when Fabregas starts and Barcelona can get bogged down, lacking the pace and thrust that Alexis or Pedro offer them. But there are worse problems to have.
Atletico Madrid bring in Adrian for Diego Costa: Courtois, Juanfran, Godin, Miranda. Filipe Luis; Koke, Tiago, Raul Garcia, Gabi, Villa; Adrian. Subs: Aranzubia, Alderweireld, Insua, Mario Suarez, Cristian Rodríguez, Sosa, Diego.
Barcelona with Marc Bartra in for Gerard Pique: Pinto; Alves, Mascherano, Bartra, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Messi, Fabregas, Neymar. Subs: Oier, Montoya, Song, Adriano, Alexis, Pedro, Sergi Roberto.
Referee: Howard Webb (Blighty).
The early breaking team news is that Diego Costa does not play tonight. That's good news for Barcelona. Stand by for full team news in a minute.
Barcelona could be forgiven for wondering when Atlético Madrid are going to bugger off and let them have their own way. They like to get their own way and, sure, Atlético have had their fun and that was cool while it lasted, kind of cute and adorable even, but it's not funny any more. It's getting to the point where Diego Simeone side are rather outstaying their welcome at the top, which is so very uncouth of these ruffians, just what you'd expect really, and someone's going to have to say something to them because this really isn't on, it's really not at all, in fact it's a damn insult is what it is. Seems that Atlético have forgotten their place in the natural order and while we all had a bloody good laugh watching them acclimatise to their new surroundings at first, the joke is frankly starting to wear thin, the value of the Champions League is definitely starting to decrease and if this goes on much longer soon other plebs will be getting ideas above their puny stations and then what? Anarchy, that's what, and maybe even something approaching equality at the highest level of the game. Imagine. Such a thing. Hold me, I'm feeling a little faint all of a sudden.
But Atlético have no intention of going anywhere! Not a chance of it, not now that they are one game – one goalless draw, in fact – away from reaching their first European Cup semi-final in 40 years and who would have expected that to be the case at the start of the season? Or, as it happens, when they were drawn against the mighty Barcelona in this quarter-final. Not many people, that's who, but that's the scenario we have on our hands tonight. Draw 0-0 and Atlético will be in the semi-final instead of Barcelona. What's more, they're still top of La Liga, a point ahead of Barcelona and three ahead of Real Madrid. They are having a magnificent season and it could yet turn out to be the greatest in their history. Atlético have relished disrupting the old order and victory tonight really would put the proverbial cat amongst the Catalan pigeons. As it stands, they'll fancy their chances. The atmosphere inside the Vicente Calderon is going to be intense, Simeone will undoubtedly have been feeding his squad raw steak for the past week and Barcelona are unlikely to enjoy this one bit, even if they go through.
Not that it's going to be easy. Atlético are still inexperienced at this level and have been sweating on the fitness of Diego Costa all week. The Brazilian forward has been included in the squad but Simeone has said he will only risk him if he is “close to 90%”, while Atlético are also without one of their most creative players, the wonderful Arda Turan, because of injury. A team that thrives on its intensity also looked exhausted against Villarreal, which is a cause for concern, although you can be sure that they will be ready up for this one. In fact, expect them to be breathing fire when the Champions League anthem strikes up.
But standing in their way are Barcelona and you write them off at your peril. Even if they are in a state of disarray, the latest blow to their dimming halo coming last week when Fifa imposed a transfer ban on them in the next two windows for signing under-age players, they are still Barcelona and they still have Lionel Messi. And Xavi. And Andres Iniesta. They can mask a lot of flaws and Barcelona have impressed in big matches this season. Yet they are weak in defence, where Gerard Pique's injury leaves Javier Mascherano even more exposed than usual. We could discuss the failure to bother signing a centre-back since 1973, but what's left to say, while Victor Valdes's horrible knee injury means that local entertainer, Jose Pinto, will be keeping everyone amused in goal.
Of course, Barcelona don't necessarily need to win. A 2-2 draw would be enough for them to go through on away goals and a 1-1 draw will take the tie to penalties. This is their third visit to the Vicente Calderon this season and they drew 1-1 in the Spanish Super Cup in August and 0-0 in the league in January. There has been nothing to separate the sides. They have met four times and they have drawn four times. But Atletico's 1-1 draw in last week's first leg, secured thanks to Diego's wonder goal and some fine saves late on from Thibaut Courtois, gives them the slightest of edges in this tie. Not by much, though.
Whatever happens, something has to give at the fifth time of asking tonight and something will start giving from 7.45pm. We may be done at 9.30pm. But we could be done later than that. Only one way to find out. Vamos!