A volcanic match full of sumptuous skills left Club Atlético de Madrid with a slender advantage for next week's second leg thanks to Diego's invaluable and thrilling long-range goal – although Neymar's fine 71st-minute equaliser kept FC Barcelona firmly in this quarter-final.
Atlético, in the last eight for the first time since 1997, belied the first-half loss of talismanic forward Diego Costa to injury; his replacement, Diego, fired the visitors in front 11 minutes after half-time with a thunderous angled shot. Seeking a seventh successive semi-final appearance, Barcelona continued probing, however, and Neymar's fourth UEFA Champions League goal levelled matters 19 minutes from time – although perhaps the hidden hero was Thibaut Courtois, who made three world-class saves in the second period to ensure Atlético's efforts did not go unrewarded.
The opening half brimmed with intensity, invention and quality, with each side losing a key player early on. Gerard Piqué fell awkwardly following a challenge with Costa, then Costa himself pulled up feeling for the hamstring in his right leg. The supporting cast compensated for their departures.
The returning David Villa became Barça's chief tormentor. Diego Simeone had ordered his men to press high up the pitch and to try to prevent goalkeeper José Manuel Pinto from keeping the ball moving. The pressure worked. Barcelona sacrificed possession much more regularly than normal, most dangerously when Pinto kicked straight to Arda Turan, who found Villa for a snap-shot that curled just round the post.
Javier Mascherano's anticipation then won a crucial challenge and the ball was worked to Lionel Messi; Miranda blocked superbly. Diego Godín then did likewise to deny Andrés Iniesta, through on goal. Messi's header from a Daniel Alves cross forced Courtois to dive quickly before a long free-kick gave Villa another opening. Pinto pushed the attempt wide.
Atlético's breakthrough more than equalled the majesty of the match. Godín took a sharp free-kick but there seemed little danger from Diego, only for the substitute to unleash a shot to remember, bending the ball into the top corner from 25 metres.
Sergio Busquets replied promptly with a vicious volley which Courtois threw himself full length to touch round the post and the contest was sizzling. Fittingly, Barcelona's equaliser was wonderful. Iniesta held off and held off before splitting the defence and Neymar got ahead of Miranda to level with his right foot.
There was more drama to come, Courtois producing memorable saves from Iniesta's fizzing strike and a Messi free-kick in the closing stages, meaning the teams will reconvene at the Estadio Vicente Calderón all square.
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