Luis Suarez steps up as Barca draw at Atletico, preserve unbeaten Liga run
MADRID -- Luis Suarez saved Barcelona's unbeaten start to the season, but Ernesto Valverde's side saw their seven-game winning run in La Liga come to an end with a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.
Saul Niguez's superb first-half strike had given Atletico a deserved lead, and for large parts of the night, it looked as if Diego Simeone's side would inflict defeat on Barca for the first time in the league this season. However, Suarez's 82nd-minute header earned a point for the league leaders.
Barca are still unbeaten in the league and have a five-point lead over second place, which is now occupied by Real Madrid after they beat Getafe earlier in the day. And while there are still question marks over just how good Valverde's side are, they're showing plenty of resilience. This was the second time this season they've come from behind to earn points. It's also worth highlighting the form and maturity being shown by Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Samuel Umtiti this season.
This was another disjointed display until the final 20 minutes and on another day, Barca may well have lost. Despite scoring the winner, Suarez continues to struggle for form, Andre Gomes (who played the whole match) is still not the answer in midfield, and there are legitimate concerns over the team's movement and ability to create space in the final third. That said, they were up against a well-drilled Atletico side away from home in this case.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Valverde's decision to play Gomes didn't work out, and while there have been improvements in midfield this season, he still looks reliant on a moment of Lionel Messi magic. That said, once again his substitution helped to change the game, with Sergi Roberto's cross laying on the leveller for Suarez.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 8 -- Made two brilliant saves in first 10 minutes from Antoine Griezmann but was unable to make it a hat-trick of stops when Saul's effort found his bottom corner in the 21st minute.
DF Nelson Semedo, 6 -- After a number of exciting performances at Camp Nou, this was a more subdued display from the right-back. Often drifted inside when Barca attacked when perhaps his pace would have been better exploited out wide. Taken off on the hour mark.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- True to form, excruciating whistles filled the Wanda Metropolitano every time he touched the ball, but this was one of his better performances of the season so far. Looked to drive Barca forward when he could and stopped a number of dangerous Atletico counterattacks in the second half.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 8 -- Pique's undisputed partner in the middle of the back four now, something Javier Mascherano acknowledged earlier in the week. Produced a number of brilliant challenges and blocks to keep the home side out throughout the game. Looked to bring the ball out from the back, too, but often had a lack of players able to receive possession in front of him.
DF Jordi Alba, 5 -- Uncharacteristically gave the ball away on a number of occasions but was often let down by the number of options he had available. Gave a number of fouls away, too, and, despite his energy, was not at his best.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Not his best showing of the season but calm in possession and well-positioned throughout.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 5 -- The good things the Croatia international did were cancelled out by the bad. Has had an up-and-down season so far, and this performance reflected that inconsistency.
MF Andres Iniesta, 6 -- Returned from a hamstring strain to start the game but was crowded out by Atletico's midfield and defence. Taken off early in the second half.
MF Andre Gomes, 5 -- The surprise inclusion in Valverde's starting lineup, Gomes made his first start in the league this season. Regularly criticised for his performances since joining from Valencia last summer, it was either going to go one of two ways. Unfortunately for the Portugal international, it went the wrong way. Another discreet showing despite surprisingly being left on for the whole game. In his defence, he was asked to play a role out on the right wing that is not familiar to him, before eventually moving more central late on.
FW Lionel Messi, 6 -- Like Iniesta, he seemed to be surrounded by several Atletico players every time he got the ball. Perhaps tired from his exploits and travels with Argentina, he wasn't at his explosive best but still looked like Barca's best bet for a goal. Hit the post with a brilliant free-kick.
FW Luis Suarez, 6 -- The Uruguay international continues to plough on in questionable form, despite the uncertainty over the need for an operation on a cyst on his right knee. Once again, he looked short of his best form here but came up with the goods to earn Barca a point with a header at the far post.
DF Sergi Roberto, 7 -- Replaced Semedo at right-back and linked well with Deulofeu, sending in the cross, which he headed in.
FW Gerard Deulofeu, 6 -- Looked to cause problems with his pace, but his final ball was lacking.
MF Paulinho, NR -- Came on for the final 10 minutes and added drive and urgency to Barca's midfield.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.