Luis Suarez’s 82nd-minute header denied Atlético Madrid a first La Liga win over Barcelona in seven years. Barcelona’s perfect start to the league campaign ended with a 1-1 draw in the capital, though they were on course to leave empty-handed when Saúl Ñíguez fired home after 21 minutes.
Luis Suarez’s header finally broke Atlético’s resistance with 10 minutes to go after Saúl’s first-half strike had threatened to end Barcelona’s unbeaten league start
Atlético have knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League twice in recent years but a success over them in their domestic division has proved elusive since Valentine’s Day 2010, and so it proved again as Suárez rose at the back post to head in substitute Sergi Roberto’s cross.
The visitors nearly went ahead inside 30 seconds, when Saúl made his first key contribution in front of his own goal.
Lionel Messi cut in off the right flank, played a one-two with Suarez and shrugged off Filipe Luís only for Saúl to poke the ball behind as Barcelona’s key man prepared to pull the trigger.
Atlético woke up and dominated the rest of the first period, with Marc-André ter Stegen brilliantly denying Antoine Griezmann on two occasions.
The first was a fine one-handed save at his near post after Andrés Iniesta gave away the ball and Ter Stegen thwarted Griezmann again, this time with his left leg, after the Frenchman had driven into the box by nutmegging Gerard Piqué.
Ter Stegen would be beaten in the 21st minute when Saúl unleashed an unstoppable attempt beyond him from 25 yards. The 22-year-old drifted off Ivan Rakitic to collect Yannick Carrasco’s pass and fired a right-foot shot that swerved past Ter Stegen and into the net.
Suarez, who had left for international duty having scored just twice, did not initially seem buoyed by his midweek double for Uruguay as he pulled out of a header from a Messi free-kick when unmarked.
Diego Simeone, the Atlético coach, said of Messi: “He certainly wasn’t as tired as most people thought he would be because he played a tremendous match. We defended well, just couldn’t put the game away on the counterattacks.”
This was an Atlético side who had conceded just once in the league since August and their defensive resolve was evident when Stefan Savic blocked a Suarez shot just before the break.
The former Liverpool forward had the best chance of the early second-half exchanges when he breezed beyond Diego Godín and rifled in an effort that Jan Oblak was behind.
Home fans inside the Wanda Metropolitano feared the worst when Messi won a free-kick 25 yards out. However, Barcelona’s No. 10, so often Atlético’s nemesis, curled his dead-ball effort on to the outside of the post.
Suarez wanted a set piece inside the box when the ball may have come up and struck Savic’s arm, though the referee was disinterested and the replays were inconclusive.
Messi fired just wide as Barcelona’s confidence grew and Suarez nearly levelled when free inside the box only for a poor first touch to precede a weak attempt at Oblak.
Yet opportunities continued to come his way and Suarez peeled away from Savic to reach Roberto’s cross and nod down past Oblak and in.
André Gomes almost reached Suarez again and the final kick of the game was Messi’s free-kick from the edge of the box which Oblak managed to hold on to.