New Delhi: Defending champions Barcelona fought back from one goal down to beat nine-men Atletico Madrid 2-1 in a feisty La Liga encounter at Camp Nou on Saturday.
South American super stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez scored in a space of eight minutes to give Luis Enrique's side all three points, in a match which could decide the fate the league, and move clear of Atletico in the table. After 21 round, Barcelona has 51 points, three points ahead of Atletico, who have played one extra game.
Spain midfielder Koke provided a dream start to visiting Diego Simeone's side with a brilliant first-time strike from the left in 10th minute. Playing their typical hard-pressing game, Atletico, continued to trouble the Catalans. But their offensive play proved counter productive with two both Diego Godin and Gabi entering the referee's book inside the first 25 minutes of play.
At the half hour mark, Barcelona found the equaliser to Messi, from a brilliant Neymar play with Jordi Alba, with the Spaniard setting up for the Argentinean from the left. Their domination in the centre proved the difference, as Suarez increased the lead eight minutes later with a brilliant finish from a Dani Alves long ball.
It was the Uruguayan's 19th goal of the season in the league, two more than Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, who has so far scored 17 times. Messi also reached 12th goal.
Minutes after conceding second goal, Juanfran was booked, which was followed by a direct red card to Filipe Luis, for a reckless challenge on Messi, in the 44th minute.
With a man down, Atletico tried to absorb the pressure, with occasional counter attacking moves, even as Barca continue to play their possession game to near perfection.
Godin, who was booked in the first half, got his second in the 65th minute for a send-off, thus reducing Atletico to nine-men. A flurry of changes were affected by Simeone, but the match ended with 2-1 in favour of the hosts. And it turned out to be a commendable job from the visitors, given the circumstances.
Despite the defeat, Atletico are still in the second place, four points ahead of their city neighbours Real, who have a game in hand.