BARCELONA • It was all going to plan for Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp on Saturday.
The visitors were showing all the hallmarks of a Diego Simeone-managed side with their customary steeliness, demonstrating why they have conceded the least number of goals in LaLiga.
They were even keeping the ball for long periods and depriving the hosts space to run into.
That was until the 28th minute, when the red mist descended on Diego Costa, one of football's pantomime villains, after he had been adjudged to have fouled Arthur.
The Spain striker was sent off for a verbal tirade at referee Jesus Gil Manzano and, while his teammates manfully kept Barcelona at bay until last five minutes, they could not last the distance.
Luis Suarez (85th) and Lionel Messi (86th) sealed the 2-0 victory to establish an 11-point lead at the top of the table with seven games to play.
The Spanish official later submitted his match report, which was corroborated by Marca and Radio Catalunya, stating the red card was in response to the hot-headed Brazil-born player telling him he would "s*** on your w**** mother".
We were doing so well until the red card, but all the small details went their way. We've had a lot of red cards against Barca and not all of them have been fair.
KOKE, Atletico Madrid midfielder, airing his frustration that "something strange happens" whenever they play at Barcelona.
However, Atletico were still contesting the decision, which effectively ended their title hopes, at the final whistle.
Simeone insisted post-game that his side were harshly done by as "Barca players do the same thing, saying things right in the referee's face", yet "they did not get sent off, they got away with it".
Bemoaning how his side never get the rub of the green at Barcelona, the Argentinian added: "If Costa really said what the referee claims he did, then he was correctly sent off.
"But we must be doing something wrong as we have had seven players sent off in 11 games. I remember we had (former striker) Fernando Torres, a global icon, sent off here for making two fouls.
"We were better in the second half, we made a huge effort and I felt we were in control until the final five minutes. I'm left encouraged by many things which my team did today."
Atletico's Koke also aired his frustration, claiming "whenever we come here, something strange happens".
The Spain midfielder added: "We were doing so well until the red card, but all the small details went their way. We've had a lot of red cards against Barca and not all of them have been fair."
Suarez, however, was delighted he found the breakthrough against an Atletico side who packed their defence after going down to 10 men, declaring the Spanish champions had took "two steps forward" towards an eighth title in 11 years.
The Uruguay striker said: "Today, we didn't just take one step, we obviously have a very big advantage now... We deserve a lot of credit for what we're achieving."
His coach Ernesto Valverde also underlined the importance of the victory, calling it "fundamental".
The Spaniard added: "We're very happy because we know exactly what Atletico are, an enormous team who scrapped until the end with 10 men."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS