Messi, Suarez score as Barca tops Atletico in Copa

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, top, celebrates with teammate Luis Suarez after scoring their side's second goal against Atletico Madrid during a Spanish Copa del Rey semifinal first leg soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.

MADRID — Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi did the damage again for Barcelona, scoring superb first-half goals as the defending champion won 2-1 at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal on Wednesday.

Suarez scored after a run from almost the halfway line in the seventh minute, and Messi added to the lead with a powerful shot from outside the area in the 33rd.

France striker Antoine Griezmann pulled a goal back for Atletico with a 59th-minute header, and the hosts pressured for the rest of the match at a packed Vicente Calderon Stadium.

But Barcelona held on for a win that puts it in a good position to reach the Copa final for the fourth straight season after next week’s second leg at Camp Nou. It has won the trophy three times in the last five seasons.

“In the end we could have sealed it with another goal, but we also could have conceded one,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said of Atletico. “I’m satisfied with the result.”

Celta Vigo hosts Alaves in the first leg of the other semifinal on Thursday. Celta eliminated Real Madrid in the quarterfinals.

Barcelona’s first goal came after Griezmann lost possession, allowing Suarez to start his remarkable run. The Uruguay striker brilliantly cleared defender Stefan Savic with one touch to open a clear path toward the goal and outran the other defenders before finding the net with a low strike from inside the area.

“They scored two great goals, there was nothing we could do,” Atletico defender Juanfran Torres said.

Messi scored his 11th goal in 12 matches with an unstoppable left-foot drive from just outside the box, hitting a mid-height shot that struck the left post before going in.

“Messi is always decisive for us, and ever more so in big matches like this one,” Luis Enrique said.

Messi and Suarez each have scored seven goals in nine matches this year.

“I leave satisfied with how the team played in the second half,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “We had more intensity, more attitude. It was more like the Atletico that we are used to seeing.”

Griezmann kept the hosts alive with his header early in the second half, igniting the crowd at the Vicente Calderon. Three minutes later he almost equalized with a close-range shot that was blocked by Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen on the line.

Messi then struck the post from a free kick in the 75th.

Neymar is suspended from the return match after being shown a yellow card early in the second half. Atletico will be without veteran defensive midfielder Gabi Fernandez for the same reason.

Barcelona played without midfielders Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta because of injuries.


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