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Atletico Madrid finished Wednesday night's Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on the front foot, but Barcelona were able to hold on for a 2-1 victory, which Luis Enrique was pleased with, even if he was hoping for a third goal.

The Asturian coach admitted that Los Rojiblancos were better in the second half, so he was relieved that they did not come back to draw.

"Barcelona could have sentenced the tie with a third goal, but we also could have conceded another," he said in his post-match press conference.

"So it could have been better, but it also could have been worse.

"It would have been naive to think we could come to the Estadio Vicente Calderon and not suffer.

"Against a team of this level you have to hope that the minutes pass as quickly as possible and in our case that meant getting the ball into their half, keeping them far from our area and circulating the ball.

"They made life difficult for us and with their goal they keep themselves in the tie."

Overall, though, he was pleased with the result, having insisted beforehand that scoring an away goal would be vital.

"It an enjoyable moment," he said.

"The fact that Atletico's ground is so tough means this result boosts the team."

In particular, the Blaugrana coach was impressed with the way his players started the match, with their goals coming in the seventh and 33rd minutes.

"We started very well and understood how difficult those first few minutes were, as well as interpreting the game well and closing off the home side's attacks," he explained.

"We were very effective in the first half.

"In the second half the pattern was similar, but we knew they would come and attack us and risk a lot."

Discussing Lionel Messi and his wondrous long-range rocket, Luis Enrique did not appear surprised to see his No.10 perform on this huge occasion.

"Messi is at his best in the biggest matches," the coach repeated.

"He gives the team whatever it needs, whether with assists or goals.

"There aren't many new ways to praise Messi."

Looking ahead to next week's return leg, the 46-year-old was not taking anything for granted just yet, pointing out that Los Colchoneros will take plenty of risks.

"The great thing about cup ties is that there's always one team that is closer [to qualifying] and another that will take more risks," the coach explained.

"Our plan of controlling the ball, creating chances and making the most of them doesn't change.

"I hope that the fans will help us at a full Camp Nou and will help us to win this semi-final."

Finally, he also told reporters that he wasn't overly concerned about Neymar's suspension as he has plenty of squad depth.

"If there is one team in the world that can't get annoyed at absences then it's Barcelona," Luis Enrique said.

"Neymar is vital, but I have others who can perform in his position."

Suarez: Barcelona scored twice, but it's not over

Barcelona earned a 2-1 first leg advantage to take back to the Camp Nou in their Copa del Rey semi-final with Atletico Madrid, but Luis Suarez is taking nothing for granted.

The scorer of the evening's first goal warned that there was still plenty of work to do to secure their spot in the final, while he admitted that his side were content to sit back in the second half and guard their lead.

"We scored twice, but it's not over," the Uruguayan told Gol Television in his post-match interview. "Atletico force you to drop back a little.

"They pressed us well, but we also had to maintain the first half [result] that we had earned."

He was especially pleased with the way Barcelona started the match, explaining how important it is to begin blockbuster games like this without any nerves.

"In these types of matches you have to come out as settled as we were," he told the broadcaster.

"Atletico were better in the second half than they were in the first half.

"They didn't have anything to lose and they risked everything."

The Blaugrana were ultimately able to withstand a furry of late chances and will aim to confirm their spot in the final in next Wednesday's return leg, which kicks

Simeone floored by missed chances

In what can almost be considered symbolic fashion, Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone dropped to the floor in sheer exhaustion after a flurry of late chances were unable to draw the Copa del Rey first leg against Barcelona.

Fernando Torres had just commited a foul on Gerard Pique and the Rojiblanco boss couldn't handle himself any longer.

Had the foul not been called, the iconic striker would have run free, thus Cholo's frustration.

Bale becomes a new winter signing for Real Madrid

After being sidelined since November 22 when he picked up an ankle injury on Champions League duty, Gareth Bale will return to first team training with his Real Madrid teammates within the next seven days, giving Zinedine Zidane a boost akin to having a new signing on board.

While he wasn't expected back until the end of February at the earliest, Bale is set to return ahead of schedule given the hard work he has put in behind the scenes at Valdebebas.

However, he will be treated with caution and there will be no rush placed on the Welshman as he continues to close in on his comeback.

Bale underwent surgery on his right ankle in London on November 29 and since then, his recovery has been exemplary and surprised even medical experts, who had predicted a three-month lay off.

The ex-Tottenham Hotspur man has shared his journey with the public, posting a video on social media of his use of an anti-gravity machine designed by NASA to aid his recovery.

Although there were initial doubts about whether or not surgery was the best option for Bale, it now appears that the right decision was made in having him undergo an operation at the hands of Dr James Calder, one of the most esteemed surgeons in his field.

Both he and the Real Madrid medical team have helped oversee his recovery as well as physiotherapist Jaime Benito, who has once more played a crucial role.

Los Blancos are hopeful of incorporating Bale into the first-team as soon as they can, although the first leg of their Champions League tie against Napoli will come too early for him.

At present, all indications suggest that he could return on February 18 when Real take on Espanyol at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Bale's performances this season prior to the injury were arguably his best since he made the move to the Spanish capital, scoring seven goals and adding three assists in 16 games.

Man United frustrated by Hull

Manchester United lost ground on the Premier League's leading teams after being held to a goalless draw by bottom club Hull City on Wednesday.

Hull had goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic to thank for their point as they continued their revival under new manager Marco Silva and climbed off the bottom, to be replaced by Sunderland.

Jakupovic saved well from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the first half and even more impressively, at close range, from substitute Juan Mata in the second.

Daley Blind, Marcus Rojo, Marcus Rashford and Ibrahimovic all missed the target as United dominated and they very nearly paid heavily four minutes from time when Lazar Markovic hit the post on his Premier League debut for Hull.

Milan's Bonaventura out for four months after surgery

AC Milan midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura will be out of action for four months following thigh surgery, the Serie A club said on their official website (www.acmilan.com) on Wednesday.

The Italy international, who has made 19 league appearances this season, had an operation to repair his left thigh after picking up the injury in Sunday's 2-1 Serie A loss at Udinese.

Defender Mattia De Sciglio, who has played 17 league games this term, sustained an injury to his right ankle at Udinese and could be sidelined for a month, according to Italian media.

Milan, who are seventh on 37 points, host 13th-placed Sampdoria on Sunday.
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