Champions League

Neymar strike rescues Barca

2014-04-01 23:09
Neymar (AFP)

Barcelona - An exquisite goal from Neymar has rescued a 1-1 draw for Barcelona after substitute Diego had given La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid the lead in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.

A stunning 35-metre strike from Diego put Atletico in the driving seat after 56 minutes at the Nou Camp but Barcelona, aiming for their seventh successive semi-final appearance, hit back with a bending effort from Neymar 15 minutes later.

"We are satisfied because I think we played a good match," Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told Spanish broadcaster TVE. "We scored a brilliant goal through Diego and then we defended very well.

"A 1-1 draw is a good result and at the Calderon I think anything is possible. With our fans behind us it's like having an extra player and hopefully we can put on a good performance."

Atletico lost their talisman in attack, Diego Costa, to injury early on and still had the better chances in the first half through David Villa.

It has been a remarkable season for La Liga leaders Atletico and they showed typical resistance before Barca found a way through when Andres Iniesta played in Neymar and he curled the ball round Courtois from a tight angle.

Pinto was the only change to the Barca side that defeated Manchester City in the previous round, coming in for injured keeper Victor Valdes, and he put them in trouble in the opening minutes.

His clearance went straight to Arda Turan and he found Barca old boy Villa who fired wide in front of goal.

It got worse for the home side when centre half Gerard Pique went off with a back problem after coming off worse in a challenge with Costa.

The hosts gradually worked their way more and more into the game and an Iniesta strike was blocked by Diego Godin before Costa had to leave the field with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Lionel Messi had a header comfortably saved by Courtois and Neymar shot over the bar but Atletico finished the first half stronger and this time Pinto came to the home team's rescue, diving to deny Villa inside the area.

Diego's shot from distance sparked Barca into action and their pressure finally paid off with Neymar's spectacular strike.

"The game was what we were expecting with a very intense Atletico team," said Barca captain Xavi. "We had our chances to score and it was a shame they scored that fantastic goal.

"Barca deserved to win. We had more scoring chances but they work very hard in defence and it was very difficult for us to find a way through."


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