Neymar and Diego Ribas on scoresheet as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid draw 1-1
Atleti recover from loss of Diego Costa to take slight advantage into home leg
An equaliser from Neymar saw Barcelona salvage a 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday after a stunning opener by Diego Ribas in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Atletico’s chances were dealt a major blow half an hour in when striker Diego Costa came off injured, while Barcelona had lost defender Gerard Pique to injury before that.
But Diego Ribas, who replaced Costa, stunned the Camp Nou 56 minutes in with a powerful shot from about 25 metres that grazed the fingertips of goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto as it soared into the top corner.
With Lionel Messi kept quiet by Atletico’s well-organised defence, Neymar stepped up to curl the equaliser around goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the 71st.
Courtois made a number of acrobatic stops after that to preserve the draw, including in the 85th when he tipped Messi’s free kick around the post.
“They played a good game and they made it very hard for us to create chances,” Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. “We have to try and score in the return – this was not a good result for us.”
Atletico, who lead Barcelona by a single point in the Spanish league, leave with a valuable away goal before the return on April 9.
For the fourth time this season, neither team emerged victorious but Atletico return to the Vicente Calderon buoyed by their performance after having lost their top player to a hamstring injury that could sideline him from the second leg. Pique has already been ruled out with a hairline fracture of his right hip.
“This is a team of men, who play with heart and pride, who never give up,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “I’m happy because we can compete with them. I’m very happy because we are in this.”
“It’s going to be such a hard game against a great opponent. It’s going to be a very passionate game,” Simeone said before calling on his players to seize the opportunity should Diego Costa not be available for the second leg. “It’s up to the team and the players to respond and make up for his [possible] absence.”