After a breathless first half that saw five goals and a sending off as the teams headed off for the interval, Barcelona eventually cruised into the semifinals of the Copa del Rey thanks to a 4-2 aggregate win over an Atlético Madrid team that finished the second leg with nine men.
Following a 1-0 defeat at the Camp Nou last week, Atlético got off to the perfect start at the Vicente Calderon when Fernando Torres struck a superb goal inside the first minute. But Barcelona soon equalized through Neymar, and did the same through a spectacular own goal from Miranda after the home side had gone back in front thanks to a fortunate penalty converted by Raul Garcia. It was to be five minutes from the end of an action-packed first half that the tie’s decisive moment occurred. Atlético saw a far more convincing penalty appeal turned down and the man whose arm the ball struck in the penalty area, Jordi Alba, sprinted up field to supply Neymar and leave Diego Simeone’s men needing to score twice.
With Atlético’s fight back deflated, their captain, Gabi, earned himself a red card as the team’s walked off the pitch, seemingly for an altercation with Neymar, to leave his side a man down and their hopes effectively ended. It should have gotten even worse for Atlético in a second half that featured none of the thrilling quality of the first but plenty of friction. In a bizarre moment, midfielder Arda Turan appeared to throw his boot at the assistant referee after failing to be awarded a free-kick. To his great fortune, the referee gave him the benefit of the doubt and just a yellow card. He may not get off so lightly once the incident, as it surely will be, is later reviewed. Even the leniency extended to him on the night could not keep Atlético with 10 men on the field until the end, with Mario Suarez being shown his marching orders six minutes from the end after getting a second yellow card.
After the superb manner in which they began the 90 minutes, it was a hugely disappointing way for Atlético to bow out. But Barcelona deserve much credit for seeing off the early onslaught, thanks in large part to the continued brilliance between Lionel Messi and Neymar. Luis Enrique’s side, who await the winners of Villarreal and Getafe in the last four, have now won seven matches in a row. And, after failing to beat Atlético Madrid in six games last season, have now beaten them three times in a month.