Ousmane Dembele scored the only goal of the game as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid to go three points clear at the top of LaLiga.
Real Madrid’s defeat to Villarreal on Saturday gave Xavi’s side the chance to earn some breathing space at the summit and they grasped that opportunity with an impressive display at the Civitas Metropolitano.
Dembele’s composed first-half finish was enough to see off the toothless Rojiblancos, who consequently slipped to fifth place.
Stefan Savic and Ferran Torres were sent off for a late off-the-ball clash as the Blaugrana, who were without the suspended Robert Lewandowski, passed a big test to secure their first top-flight victory since the World Cup break.
2 – Ousmane Dembélé is one of only two players to have scored 5+ goals and provided 5+ assists in LaLiga this season, after Antoine Griezmann (also 5 and 5). Stinger. pic.twitter.com/zijmAjk4IQ
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 8, 2023
Barca quickly stamped their authority on the game by dominating possession, Savic and Jose Gimenez making crucial blocks to deny Ansu Fati.
Pedri was the architect for a superb opening goal in the 22nd minute, bursting into the box and laying the ball off to Gavi, who played it into Dembele’s path and the winger found the bottom-left corner with a clinical right-foot finish.
Jan Oblak prevented Pedri from adding a second soon after, but Atleti posed an increasing threat and Jose Gimenez headed just wide, before Marc-Andre ter Stegen kept out Antoine Griezmann’s drive with a brilliant one-handed save.
Former Barca man Griezmann had another chance early in the second half, but failed to hit the target from eight yards out.
Savic came to the rescue again by deflecting the dangerous Dembele’s shot wide after Atleti were caught out by a ball over the top.
There was late drama when Savic and Torres were given their marching orders following a tussle and Griezmann had an effort cleared off the line as Barca held on for a big win.