FC Barcelona recover to beat Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich edge resolute Benfica


Barcelona`s Luis Suarez netted twice for a 2-1 win over 10-man Atletico Madridin their Champions League quarter-final, first leg on Tuesday after the visitors` Fernando Torres opened the scoring and was later sent off.
After a flurry of chances for the home side, Suarez levelled from close range in the 63rd minute and then headed the winner in the 74th, giving the European champions the edge before next week’s second leg at the Vicente Calderon.
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Atletico got off to the ideal start when Torres fired Koke’s pass through the legs of keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen after 25 minutes but 10 minutes later he was dismissed for a second booking as they suffered a seventh straight loss to Barca.

Atletico had been in confident mood after thrashing Real Betis 5-1 in la Liga on Saturday and were looking to take advantage of Barcelona, who were reeling from a 2-1 home defeat by Real Madrid that ended their record 39-game unbeaten run.

Diego Simeone’s men defended as a team and their organised play and high pressing interrupted Barca’s usual quick passing game.
“We are still alive in the tie,” Atletico coach Simeone said. “They had a chance to score another goal with an extra man and they didn’t, so that gives us hope and belief. The second leg is going to be a great game.”

After Lionel Messi and Neymar missed the target in the early stages, Atletico pounced with their first proper chance.

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After a long spell of possession, Koke received a pass from Gabi and took a touch before threading the ball into the path of Torres, who got his 11th goal in 15 matches against Barcelona.

The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker received his first booking for a late tackle on Neymar in the middle of the pitch four minutes after scoring and got his marching orders for a second yellow minutes later for fouling Sergio Busquets.

Simeone’s side had two sent off when they lost to the Catalans in La Liga and were again punished for indiscipline.

After the break Messi was inches away from his 500th career goal with a scissors kick before Neymar hit the far post and then sent a shot whistling just wide.
Barcelona broke Atletico’s resistance when Suarez diverted Jordi Alba’s low cross home with his shin and then powered into the area to head Dani Alves’ cross past Jan Oblak to score the winner with his eighth Champions League goal this season.

“The only downside is we didn`t score another goal, which would have helped us a lot,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.

“We feel positive because the result is in our favour, we have won again and beaten Atletico again, a team that makes things extremely difficult.”

Bayern Munich will take a slender lead into the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Benfica after Arturo Vidal`s early goal earned a 1-0 win over the resolute Portuguese side on Tuesday.

Benfica, aiming to reach the European Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990, have conceded 13 goals in their three previous visits to Bayern and must have feared the worst when Vidal headed home after two minutes.

But the floodgates failed to open after that as the visiting defence stood firm on a frustrating evening for the hosts who beat Benfica`s arch-rivals Porto 6-1 at home at the same stage of the competition last season.

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Five-times European champions Bayern had also found goals easy to come by in the Champions League this season, blasting 18 in their previous four home matches, but came up against some dogged defending as they pushed to extend their advantage.

Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski had a superb chance to add a second in the dying stages but bizarrely opted to try and pass to Philipp Lahm when through on goal and it was wasted.

“We only had a few good chances,” said Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. “Benfica’s defence did a good job, their four-man backline works pretty well. In the end we missed the chance to score a second goal but sometimes a 1-0 has to be enough.”

Bayern got off to the perfect start when Chilean Vidal got on the end of Juan Bernat`s cross to head past keeper Ederson.

That was not the cue, however, for the expected goal rush as Benfica, twice European champions in the 1960s, kept possession despite creating few real chances.

They could, however, have inflicted a punishing blow on the hosts midway through the second half when Jonas`s shot cannoned back of Bayern`s Javi Martinez when the goal was gaping.

Benfica, who came into the game in a rich vein of form having won 19 of their previous 20 games in all competitions, will believe they can cause an upset in next Wednesday`s return.

To do so they will have to break their duck against Bayern after Tuesday`s result made it five defeats and two draws in seven meetings with the Bavarians.

“We knew how difficult it is to play here against Bayern but when we had possession, we created our chances,” said Jonas. “We could have left with a better result but the tie is open.”

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