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Atletico Madrid 1, Barcelona 0, at the half

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Today, at the half of their second leg Champions League quarterfinals Spanish Football's Barcelona FC fell behind hosts Atletico Madrid 0-1. Koke's goal, was a close in shot at the end of a series of chances that included a shot off the crossbar.

Playing without the injured Gerard Pique and Victor Valdes, the Catalans were overwhelmed for long stretches of the game by an Atletico that was playing another game without their talisman, Brazilian striker Diego Costa.

Play was rugged and fouls plentiful, but with England's Howard Webb at the officiating controls the roughness was allowed to continue to a point. In fairness he was calling a tight game and Sergio Busquets' early yellow for his usual three-fouls-before-a-card performance was a breath of fresh air.

Los Conchoneros took full advantage of home field and ensure the grass was tall and dry, the opposite of what the fast passing Barca prefer. The ball rolled slowly and favored aerial play.

Atletico pressed everywhere on the field, kept at least two men on Lionel Messi whenever he was near a play and three when in possession of the ball.

David Villa hit the woodwork three times as the hosts controlled the early going completely and forced Barca to defend frantically.

Messi had the best scoring opportunities for Barca with an unmarked header in the box off Dani Alves cross and another miss hit kick off a Neymar cross the best chances.

In a game where it took Barca 12 minutes to control the ball in their opponent's half and 14 minutes before they had an organized offensive foray, the hosts were simply on their game and overwhelming their visitors.

Yet, one gets the impression that a tie is in the works for the second half as Messi, Neymar and Andres Iniesta began to settle down and work in tandem toward the end of the half. Barcelona Coach, Tata Martino would do well to bring in Alexis Sanchez for this match as Cesc Fabregas seems lost on the pitch and the visitors are not worrying Atletico enough to earn a tie easily.

Methinks the second half will be more explosive than the first as Atletico were the only protagonist then and Barca should be spoiling to assert themselves.


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