Ferran Torres earns Barca narrow win over Atletico Madrid

AFP , Sunday 23 Apr 2023

Ferran Torres's strike helped Barcelona emerge from a recent slump to earn a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Sunday in La Liga, taking a big step towards clinching their first title since 2019.

Barcelona s Spanish forward Ferran Torres (L) scores his team s first goal during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 23, 2023. AFP

After two consecutive goalless draws, second-place Real Madrid cut into Barcelona's lead by beating Celta Vigo on Saturday, but Torres's low first-half finish restored their advantage to 11 points with eight games remaining.

Atletico, third, arrived as Spain's most in-form side but Torres stroked home from the edge of the box in the 44th minute to secure victory for Xavi Hernandez's side.

Both sides had clear chances to score in the second half but Barcelona held on to their lead to inflict Atletico's first defeat since these sides met in January at the Metropolitano.

The hosts recorded a 23rd clean sheet of the season in La Liga, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen making a fine save to deny Antoine Griezmann an equaliser.

"We had to win however it was, it was important to take a big step forward in the hunt for La Liga," Torres told Movistar.

"The team worked very hard, the fans were with us from the first moment and the result fell our way."

Xavi brought Frenkie de Jong back into the starting line-up after injury, but Pedri had to make do with a seat on the bench after his two-month absence.

Griezmann almost struck immediately against his former side, rattling the crossbar with a fine effort from distance within the first minute after Sergio Busquets lost the ball in front of his box.

The French forward, in sublime form, was denied by an impressive Ter Stegen save after good work by Yannick Carrasco as Atletico shaded the first half.

However Barcelona struck just before the interval, with Raphinha controlling a long ball and crossing to Torres on the edge of the box.

With La Liga top scorer Robert Lewandowski flying past him on the outside calling for the ball, Torres took the brave decision to go it alone, and it proved fruitful as he stroked the ball past Jan Oblak and into the bottom corner.

It was Barcelona's first goal since Torres' strike against Elche on April 1, ending a painful run of three games without finding the net.

- End-to-end -

Oblak saved from Lewandowski and Torres early in the second half, before Barcelona brought on Pedri to roars from the 80,000-strong Camp Nou crowd.

Gavi smashed an effort across goal while World Cup winner Rodrigo de Paul might have equalised at the other end, but fired wide as the game started to fragment.

Raphinha scooped a gorgeous ball through for Lewandowski but Oblak pounced before the Polish striker could reach it.

Gavi and Raphinha both mishit efforts from point-blank range in the space of a few seconds that should have put the game out of reach, before Ter Stegen palmed away Griezmann's cunning flick.

Barcelona had another golden opportunity to score the second but Lewandowski selfishly shot wide from distance as he and Raphinha ran through on goal.

A simple pass would have left the Brazilian with an open goal with Oblak stranded, but desperate to improve his poor goalscoring form in recent weeks, Lewandowski went alone and scuffed his effort wide.

The striker was not punished for his profligacy as Barcelona survived a late handball appeal against Busquets to triumph.

"La Liga has been difficult for a while and it still is, we couldn't make it a bit more exciting," said Oblak.

"If Barcelona continue like this, with the advantage they have, they'll win this league."

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