A superb second-half goal apiece means that Atletico Madrid take a slight advantage back to the Vicente Calderon for the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie with Barcelona.
Substitute Diego had put the visitors to the Camp Nou ahead 11 minutes into the second half with a quite extraordinary strike into the top corner. But Barcelona responded in the 71st minute with a goal that was in many ways equally as admirable. Andres Iniesta brilliantly found Neymar, who finished sweetly.
Barcelona pushed for a winner late on, but despite dominating possession failed to beat Atletico for the fourth time this season. Atletico, who lead Barcelona by one point in La Liga, now know that they can keep the run of draws going and still progress to their first semifinal in the Champions League era, if they can keep a clean sheet back in Madrid.
Things didn’t look good for Diego Simeone’s side when talismanic forward Diego Costa, an injury doubt before the game, was forced off with a hamstring problem just 30 minutes in. By that point Barcelona had also lost one of their own mainstays when Gerard Pique had to be taken off with a back injury suffered after falling nastily following a challenge with Costa.
It was an Atletico center-back that did superbly to keep the scores level at the half. Atletico’s incredible rise under Simeone has been fuelled by a relentless determination and that was in full evidence when Diego Godin launched himself into a block to keep out a goal-bound effort from Iniesta. Atletico had a chance, too, before the break, but Jose Manuel Pinto, in for the injured Victor Valdes, reacted well to keep out an effort from former Barcelona forward David Villa.
Soon after the restart, there Pinto was rendered helpless from a strike that will live long in the memory. Diego, who had replaced the injured Costa, went past Xavi on the right wing and then from fully 35 yards and an obscene angle launched a stunning effort into the top corner of Pinto’s near post.
Thibaut Courtois soon had to be alert to keep out a strike from Sergio Busquets, but it would not be long before Barcelona leveled the game up with a moment of real quality and incision. The brilliant Iniesta saw Juanfran step up as Neymar simultaneously went to run in behind and played a pass of such timing and precision that the Brazilian was able to curl the ball stylishly first-time into the net as a defender arrived.
Barcelona were desperate for another goal and came agonizingly close with a precise curling effort from Iniesta but Courtois made a spectacular fingertip save to keep Atletico on top.