Barcelona came from behind to beat Athletico Madrid 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
Trailing 1-0 at the break it seemed that the Catalans would be heading for back to back home defeats. Athletico took the lead after 25 minutes through Fernando Torres. The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker pounced on a through ball and shot past Ter Stegen to give the visitors the lead. Torres would only play 10 further minutes. Following two injudicious challenges, the striker received his second yellow card and was dismissed.
Barcelona emerged from the interval with a sense of purpose and made use of the extra man. Atheltico did well to resist the Catalan siege for 18 minutes of the second half, until Luis Suarez tapped home from close range to equalise.
Barcelona and Suarez’s second came just 11 minutes later when the Uruguayan headed past Jan Oblak to put his side a goal to the good.
Before their reduction to 10 men, Athletico’s austere defence had hampered Barcelona’s attacking threat. This will please manager Diego Simeone, considering the triumvirate of Messi, Suarez and Neymar (MSN) has netted some 111 goals this season.
If one needed just a solitary graphic to tell the story of the night, this is it. The Barcelona players combined heat map is a clear representation of just how much Diego Simeone’s men were under pressure.
— Dáire O'Driscoll (@daireodrf) April 5, 2016
The graphic illustrates the on ball actions of the team. The portions of the pitch that are coloured blue indicate areas where few events took place. The areas that are coloured red represent those where a large number of events took place.
Considering Barcelona usually dominate possession, it is unsurprising that their heat map would contain more areas of high activity. What is surprising is the extent to which the Catalans did so and the areas of the pitch in which they did it. Barcelona had a total of 78.8% of the possession and over half of the game was played within 35 metres of Athletico’s goal.
The concentration of red outside the Athletico penalty area and on the flank occupied by Dani Alves tell the story of the game. For the entire second half the defending champions worked quick passing interplays around the 18 yard area. Atheltico found themselves carved open on numerous occasions. If not for the interventions of Koke, Juanfran and Godin, they may have been on the receiving end of a drubbing at the Nou Camp.
Athletico can count themselves fortunate that the 45 minute Barcelona barrage only resulted in 2 goals. Before kick off Simeone would have jumped at the chance to take an away goal back to the Calderon for the second leg. Yet if the 2014 finalists are to progress past last years winners then they will need to repeat their first half performance from last night.
If the heat map from the second leg mirrors that from Tuesday, then one could wager that Athletico would be taking no part in the semi-finals this year.