Luis Suárez said he felt “pure joy” when he first equalised and then won this UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg for holders Barcelona against Atlético Madrid.
The Uruguay forward produced yet another man of the match performance when his side needed it most, stabbing home to cancel out Fernando Torres’s first-half opener in the 63rd minute, then heading the winner 11 minutes later.
He told UEFA.com: “They were set up superbly, particularly defensively, and we knew it was vital to convert the chances that came our way. Finally we did so and that gave us a slim advantage. So when those goals went in, I just felt pure joy. To be able to help the team, to be able to turn the game on its head, that was great.
“I think when Fernando Torres got his red card it made it hard for them. In the first 35 minutes, before the sending-off, Atleti played very well. We were given an opportunity with the numerical advantage and now it’ll be a very good second leg.”
The 29-year-old has always maintained he specifically joined Barcelona with the aim of winning this competition. And after his strike in last season’s final, he now has eight goals from as many UEFA Champions League games this term, including Camp Nou match winners against Bayer Leverkusen and Arsenal.
Suárez added that, as important as Torres’s early expulsion was, the half-time conversation in the home dressing room also played its part. “We knew that in the second half we had to believe in ourselves, believe in our football and establish a better tempo to our game – and that we had to keep creating chance after chance. We needed to show passion.”
Atlético full-back Filipe Luís came in at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Post match he felt “awful” about the visitors’ 2-1 reverse, although he refused to rule out a second-leg comeback.
“It’s not easy playing against Barça in the Champions League in any situation, whether with ten men or not,” said the Brazilian. “At half-time the manager [Diego Simeone] told us we had to produce an epic display to win, but also to stay calm because there would be the second leg. We had the chances to win it in the second half but we also spent a lot of time in our own area, which meant a lot of opportunities for them.
“Fortunately they only scored twice because it could have been more – and we are still alive. It will be very difficult to go through, very difficult,” continued the 30-year-old.
However, the last word on a colossal battle went to Javier Mascherano, inspirational at the back once again. “That second-half performance is one of the best I’ve been involved in and that’s our road to the semi-final – producing that again in Madrid. We’ll go there with the intention of winning. We know how difficult it will be but I think we have the quality to deliver a performance.”