Three years ago, Ronaldinho walked off the pitch to a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabéu. On Tuesday night,the feat was repeated but at the Vicente Calderón by Lionel Messi. This has become his tournament where he has shown almost Maradona-like qualities. This was the case as Barcelona put themselves in prime position to move one to the tournament quarterfinals with a 3-1 win on the road.
It was billed to be the biggest matchup of the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey. Lionel Messi made it worth everyone’s while to see one of the biggest performances in recent memory.
The Spanish media once again are at his knees, but there were many others whose performance reconfirmed why Barcelona are the vedettes of world football at the moment.
Barcelona did not need Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o, Victor Valdés, Xavi, Alexander Hleb, Rafa Marquez or Carles Puyol against Atlético Madrid. Still with that in mind, there were others that shone bright and have the Colchoneros clinging on to a broken branch in the Copa del Rey. If one were to look at the starting lineup that Josep Guardiola used on this night and it was going to be a contender in any tournament it played in. Andrés Iniesta, Yaya Touré, Seydou Keita, Dani Alves, Sergi Busquets, Bojan, and a host of others were directly responsible for one of the great performances in Lio Messi’s career where he repeated the feat that Ronaldinho was capable of doing at the Bernabéu three years ago. The standing ovation Messi got at the end of the game might have been directed at him, but the crowd told them that they had done their job.
The game should have had more goals, but Iturralde Gonzalez did not see a penalty on Messi in the 6th minute. The Argentine international was sharp and would make sure to let everyone know in the 12th minute when a wall pass between him and Dani Alves. Alves heel-passed the ball to Messi and it left him alone against Gregory Coupet for the first goal of the game.
Seydou Keita and Yaya Touré showed why they are being considered two of the best midfielders in the game. Keita was vital in the Barca attack and had to clear opportunities that came close to scoring in the first half. Touré punctuated how easy it was for Barcelona to get to the Atlético goal when he headed the ball to the goal. In the end he would be denied by the goal post.
Aleti would see Messi slice through and dribble through them in their dreams. The second goal would be due to a partnership between Alves and Messi. This time Brazilian international would serve the ball to a wide open Messi. He would be taken out by Jon Heitinga inside the penalty area and the Dutch international would see his way off the pitch. Messi would cash in with the penalty and double their advantage in the 58th minute.
One of the main starters was Uruguayan international Martín Cáceres. The former Defensor Sporting prospect was fundamental in the backline as Barca beat Atletico 3-1 at the Vicente Calderón. His play was vital to secure the win. An unusual partnership in the back alongside Gerard Piqué was effective with the exception of a few plays in which they had mental lapses, but that is the reason why a seasoned veteran like Jose Manuel Pinto was behind them. Their mental lapses did eventually pay the price on a corner that resulted in the Ujfalusi goal in the 69th minute. On a corner Simão placed an in-swinger and a recently-entered Tomas Ujfalusi would be alone in the air to make the score 2-1.
The coup de grace would come just tn minutes later when Lio Messi would dribble in almost what looked like the goal he scored against Getafe, but it would be denied by the post. A few minutes later Iniesta crossed the ball into the area from the right and Messi dribbled around Coupet and scored easily. This was what brought the Calderón faithful to their reluctant feet and stamped the 3-1 result. Barcelona will now await the return match at the Nou Camp. Unless there is a grand collapse similar to the one against Getafe, the blaugrana should be in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey which is now the place where Pep Guardiola can truly showcase his entire team… the entire team.
Be scared. Be very scared.
Atlético Madrid 1-3 Barcelona
ATM: Ujfalusi (69′)
BAR: Messi (11′, 58′-pk, 81′)