La Liga News 

Valverde positive after Atletico Madrid point

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone heaped praise on Lionel Messi after the 1-1 draw with Barcelona on Saturday evening.

Amidst all the talk of politics, pitches and superstars, it was teamwork that decided Atletico’s draw with Barcelona in the first clash between the two sides at the Wanda Metropolitano to see the Catalans maintain their unbeaten start to La Liga.

Lionel Messi was the star for Argentina in midweek, but the opening goal came for Atletico and impressively had the longest combination of passes, 18, in a goal against Barcelona since 2005/06.

The very first chance fell to that man Messi. It took him just 30 seconds to come close to scoring, but he could not do quite enough to beat Jan Oblak.

“It was a good dinner for everyone, because there was a great show,” Valverde said in his post-match press conference. “I said that we were going to adapt and we did adapt. I have a positive feeling from the game.”

The former Athletic Bilbao boss also discussed claims that Messi was tired from his international exploits with Argentina.

“It’s true that Leo had some wear and tear because of the tension of the matches he has had to play, but we know that he always responds in any situation,” he added.

“He gave us a lot of effort and it was clear that when he got the ball, something good could happen for us.”

It was a homegrown talent who lit up the Wanda Metropolitano with a stunning curling strike into the bottom corner as Saul Niguez registered a crucial goal.

From that moment on, Atletico drew back and allowed Barcelona to dominate possession. With the goal giving them the advantage, they were content to allow the Catalans to dominate play, only stepping in to break up moves as and when they posed a threat.

Atletico had never lost with Saul on the scoresheet, whilst Barcelona had never lost with referee Matheu Lahoz in charge, do something would have to change if one side were to take home the three points.

Yet Lahoz did the visitors no favours as he waved to play on both when Lionel Messi was surrounded and bundled over in the penalty box just before the break and when Stefan Savic appeared to handle the ball to block a cross in his own box.

The number 10 was determined not to be beaten though, and his second half free-kick hit the post as it curled just too far to find its way past Oblak to secure an equaliser.

With Andre Gomes the surprise selection on the right of midfield, Ernesto Valverde desperately needed to provide some kind of impetus in his first real test as Barcelona manager as his side struggled to break open the Atletico defence.

Even Messi struggled, again hitting the post as he pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the box, with Luis Suarez also coming close as he tested the Atleti goalkeeper.

It was the Uruguayan who did beat the Slovenian shot stopper, drifting away from Savic as Sergi Roberto’s perfectly weighted cross was headed down and into the back of the net by the centre forward.

Suarez could have had a winner as he looked to stretch to get a stud on a ball in from Gerard Deulofeu, but the draw was how it remained.

Given Atletico’s bright start, many Colchoneros may well feel that Barcelona were there for the taking. For the visitors, they had plenty of chances to have levelled the scores and even taken the lead earlier. With the Catalans far from their clynical best, a point apiece seems a fair result.

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