Suarez gets Barca out of jail after Torres is sent off
Barcelona 2 Atletico Madrid 1
Luis Suarez turned the first-leg of this Champions League quarter-final on its head with two second-half goals after Fernando Torres had put Atletico Madrid ahead only to then get himself sent off before half-time.
Suarez has now scored 45 goals this season but Atletico will argue he should have been sent off for kicking out at Juanfran in the first half and for a clash with Felipe Luis which saw him cautioned in the second.
Diego Simone was also left fuming by Torres' red card. He had been booked for a foul on Neymar when he went clumsily in on Sergio Busquets, leaving the referee with little choice having given him no leeway with his first foul.
It was billed as the last thing Barcelona needed after their weekend defeat to Real Madrid and so it proved with Simeone picking a 4-3-3 formation that seemed like a nod to Madrid's starting XI last Saturday.
The plan was clear: Torres would lead the pressing from the front alongside Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco, preventing Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets from coming out comfortably from the back.
Luis Felipe pushed Suarez off the pitch in the first indication of the way Atletico would set about their task - they were out to knock Barcelona out of their stride. Messi had Barcelona's first chance on 12 minutes but his volley from Jordi Alba's cut-back from they bye-line was well wide.
Andres Iniesta was the next to do something completely out of character - his pass from Suarez' flick went to no one in particular and gifted Atletico possession.
They were containing Barcelona comfortably and Messi looked particularly ill-at-ease. But Simeone said before the game that they wanted the win and they took the lead from their first chance.
Koke got away from Busquets and Pique stepped out to close him down. That left Torres in space between Dani Alves and Mascherano and he made the most of that freedom, firing the ball past Marc Andre ter Stegen for his 11th goal against Barcelona in 17 games against them.
His next contribution was to so nearly make the second goal sliding the ball through to Griezmann who forced a fine save from Ter Stegen.
Barcelona were playing badly and Alves and Pique were still arguably about whose fault the goal had been.
They were then given a huge helping hand from referee Felix Brych. The German had booked Torres for an earlier foul on Neymar so when he lunged at the bottom of Busquets' calf there was nowhere else for him to go but back into his pocket for the red card.
It left Barcelona with the whole of the second half to make the most of their man advantage.
They did little to utilise it in the 10 minutes left of the first half but they set about the visitors from the first whistle of the second period.
Messi sent a bicycle kick just wide and Neymar then shot onto the bar. But it was third man in Barcelona's forward line who broke Atletico's resistance. Suarez was well placed to turn in Alba's cross shot to level and he then headed in Alves' centre to put his side in front.
Fortune had smiled on Barcelona. But they will go to the Calderon next week knowing they are far from through.
Atletico Madrid will be without the suspended Torres but there will be fired on by a sense of injustice. They were in control of the tie before the former Liverpool and Chelsea striker's punishment and they came out second best in the flurry of cards that followed.
(© Independent News Service)