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Sports

Suarez saves Barcelona at Atletico Madrid

media Luis Suarez scored Barcelona's equaliser in the closing stages of the match at Atletico Madrid. Reuters/Sergio Perez

Luis Suarez scored eight minutes from time to earn a point for Barcelona at Atletico Madrid and maintain their unbeaten start to the season. Atletico took the lead mid way through the first half after Saul Niguez drove home from just outside the penalty area.

The result lifted Atletico to third with 16 points ahead of Sevilla on goal difference. Real Madrid rose to second on 17 points following a 2-1 win at Getafe. Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were on target for the champions either side of Jorge Molina’s strike for the hosts.

But it was the match at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid that seized the attention on Saturday night. Already one of the showpiece occasions in the La Liga calendar, the fixture was imbued with added gravity after the fractious surge for Catalonian independence.

Barcelona’s last game took place on 1 October, the day of the referendum in Catalonia over secession from Spain.

Violence at the polling stations between police and voters prompted Barcelona’s chiefs to order the match at the Camp Nou against Las Palmas to be played behind closed doors.

Atletico’s ultras brandished Spanish flags and chanted nationalist hymns during the match on Saturday night. Gerard Pique, the Barcelona defender who has been outspoken on the secessionist issue, was jeered when he touched the ball. The faithful had started their abuse towards the Spain international before events even began by whistling when his name was announced in the starting line-up over the stadium address system.

A couple of hours later, their mood could have been far darker. Barcelona forward Lionel Messi had a chance to grab all three points but his snap shot from outside the box was safely gathered by the Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

“It’s true that he was exhausted by the travel and the tension of two complicatred games for Argentina in the World Cup qualifiers,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde of Messi.

“But we know he gives his best in any situation. We know what he means for our rivals and for our supporters and this is a value for us."

Valverde added: “He didn’t score against Atletico but we felt that every time he touched the ball. Something good could happen for us.”

Barcelona have 22 points from their eight games and switch their focus towards the Uefa Champions League. On Wednesday night, the Group D pacesetters entertain bottom of the table Olympiakos.

Atletico, meanwhile, have work to do in Group C. They are five points behind the leaders Chelsa in third with only one point from their two games. Atletico travel to Azerbaijan to play Qarabag FK while Chelsea host second placed Roma at Stamford Bridge in London.

 

 

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