| Atletico Madrid’s Jose Mari is challenged by Barcelona’s Dutch Reiziger during their Spanish League encounter in Madrid on Saturday. (AFP)
Madrid: Barcelona continued their miserable run of form in the league when they slipped to a 0-3 defeat at Atletico Madrid in the Spanish first division on Saturday.
The Catalan side suffered their third defeat in a row in an action-packed match.
Young striker Fernando Torres put Atletico ahead with a classy individual strike five minutes from the end of the first half and Brazilian midfielder Emerson extended the lead when he headed in from a corner midway through the second.
Five minutes earlier both sides had been reduced to 10 men when Atletico forward Jose Mari and Barca midfielder Fabio Rochemback saw red after tempers flared in an off the ball incident.
Former Barcelona B player Luis Garcia completed the misery when he cracked home with a fierce angled shot three minutes from time.
The win sent Atletico into seventh place in the table and left Barca in 12th, but the Catalans face the unwelcome prospect of dropping further down after Sunday’s matches.
With the newly-appointed coach, Antic, preferring to watch the game from home, Louis Van Gaal’s former assistant Antonio de la Cruz was on the bench directing operations for Barcelona.
Atletico took the early initiative and pinned Barcelona back in their own half from the start. Emerson forced a sharp save from Barca goalkeeper Roberto Bonano with a snap shot from the edge of the area on seven minutes and Luis Garcia shaved the post with a powerful strike soon after.
Barcelona, missing strike duo Patrick Kluivert and Javier Saviola and midfielder Philip Cocu, never settled and were restricted to playing on the break.
Atletico’s 18-year-old striker Fernando Torres then gave his more experienced opponents a lesson in classy finishing when he put the home side ahead with a sparkling individual goal five minutes from the break.
Barca tried to respond early in the second half, but just as they appeared to be getting into their stride, Rochemback and Jose Mari were dismissed and the game turned decisively in Atletico’s favour when Emerson grabbed his goal on 70 minutes.
Meanwhile, a spirited AS Roma earned a 3-1 victory over Bologna and snapped a three match losing streak.
Fabio Capello’s side pushed forward from the start coming close early on with efforts from Brazlian Cafu and strikers Marco Delvecchio and Vincenzo Montella.
Forward Montella took advantage of a poor defensive clearance to slot home in the 36th minute for the Roma lead.
The home side continued to pile on the pressure but three minutes from halftime defender Vincent Candela allowed Giuseppe Signori to volley home a Julio Cruz cross for the equaliser.
Roma kept up their relentless attack and were rewarded eight minutes after the restart when defender Michele Paramatti was adjudged to have handled a Cafu cross in the box.
On 73 minutes a rare mistake by the Bologna goalkeeper allowed substitute Antonio Cassano the easiest of tap-ins to secure a morale-boosting victory for Roma.
The win leaves Roma ninth on 26 points, only two behind seventh placed Bologna.
In an earlier match, Brescia, with Roberto Baggio inspirational, stretched their unbeaten run to seven matches with a 4-1 away drubbing of struggling Piacenza.
He scored one goal, hit the post and proved a constant threat to Piacenza’s defence. Brescia went ahead after seven minutes when midfielder Stephan Appiah blasted home Baggio’s pass from just outside the box.
Ten minutes later Piacenza deservedly pulled level thanks to a spectacular overhead kick from striker Dario Hubner, his third goal of the season.
Piacenza, with only one point in 10 matches, were in dire need of a win, but it was Brescia who dominated possession and created most of the chances.
After Luca Toni missed a sitter on 32 minutes the visitors regained the lead when Baggio scored with a thumping volley that even had the Piacenza fans clapping the ex-Italy international.
Two minutes after the restart, Toni made no mistake to make it 3-1, slotting home a Baggio through ball past ’keeper Matteo Guardalben. Baggio then struck the post with a free-kick before substitute Igly Tare sealed an emphatic victory two minutes from time.
Piacenza remain third from bottom while Brescia continue their climb to safety.