A late Diego Godín blunder only served to mask what had been an unbearable 93 minutes against Real Zaragoza prior to the Uruguayan central defender’s costly mistake, which helped our opponents spin a dull affair into a miraculous triumph.
Atlético failed to show up at La Romareda, which has been the case for los Colchoneros most of the season when it comes to playing Liga matches anywhere but at the Vicente Calderón.
For a while there, it seemed as if Los Rojiblancos’ struggles away from home were over with the arrival of coach Diego Simeone.
But with only two early wins on the road and a string of five straight trips without a victory, it’s hard to argue that ‘El Cholo’ has significantly improved our travelling form. We have now slipped to back-to-back losses playing outside the Spanish capital.
On Sunday, you kind of had a premonition of what we had in store for us after the ominous double-post by Adrián and Falcao in the first half.
While a part of our recent misfortunes has to do with a lack of a little luck at times, there does seem to be a bigger underlying issue.
Adrián, a beacon of our offense when things are going dandy, has looked absolutely burned out lately, highlighting the problem of fatigue across the squad.
Our overloaded schedule is wreaking havoc on our domestic campaign, and has led to untimely injuries and a bevy of dropped points.
To make matters worse, a Málaga victory over Espanyol on Sunday (away of course just to rub it in our faces even more) stretched the gap separating us from third and fourth place to a seemingly insurmountable eight points.
So, for the sake of what’s left of our sanity, it’s probably time to put away the Champions League pom poms, as that ship has well and truly sailed.
Our men, likely in low spirits in the wake of defeat, will need to immediately pick their heads up and regroup in preparation for Hannover’s Europa League quarter-final visit on Thursday. We then welcome Getafe to the Calderón on Sunday.
There are some silver linings despite our woeful result against los Maños. Arda, the source of our limited attacking threats on Sunday, is fully fit and Diego looks set to command our midfield again as he makes his way back from injury.
The health of the pair will be vital to our Europa League title-hopes and of our last-gasp efforts in La Liga.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone refuses to assign blame to his players
“Zaragoza played a great match,” said El Cholo in the post-game press conference.
“We were unable to take advantage of our chances in the first half. In a jammed and feisty game, Zaragoza played with a lot of strength. They took home a well-deserved triumph.”
He continued: “In the second half we had more possession but a possession that was limited to outside the penalty area. In the first half we had our clearest chances, but congratulations to Zaragoza.
“They played a very good game. We weren’t able to play the match we wanted and we must now prepare for the Cup game we have on Thursday.
“The players made a great effort. I have nothing to reproach them for. This is my 15th or 16th game, I don’t remember, and today was the first one in which we were unable to find our game in any passage. But it wasn’t because of attitude, it was always there, as was the will, the sense of responsibility and the effort.”
Asked if he thought Undiano Mallenco made the right call in awarding our opponents with a spot kick, Simeone said:
“The referee saw it, it was a penalty.”
Diego took the field for first time in five weeks
On-loan midfielder Diego, who replaced Eduardo Salvio in the 70th minute, assured that he feels fine after returning to action since sustaining an injury in Gijón on the 19th of February.
“The truth is I feel good,” he told Spanish paper AS after the game.
“I think it’s been almost five weeks that I haven’t participated and I find myself with a good rhythm.”
The Brazilian felt that his team lacked “conviction” and may not have taken the clash as seriously as they should have.
“We created opportunities, but we failed to take on the match believing in its importance,” he said.
“We are all responsible for what happened.”
In response to his thoughts on the possibility of securing a Champions League berth given the outcome of the game, Diego said:
“Now’s not the time to talk about objectives. This is the time to talk about the nine matches we have left.”
As a Wolfsburg player on-loan with los Rojiblancos, Diego gave his assessment of our upcoming Bundesliga opponents.
“[Hannover] are a very solid and compact squad,” he said.
“They are a team that allow very little and then launch dangerous counterattacks. It will be a difficult matchup, because they are a team that know how to do their job well.”
Domínguez made rare appearance in the fold
“We have lost and perhaps deservedly,” Atlético youth product Alvaro Dominguez told reporters after the match.
“We weren’t able to play the way we have been but we can’t let our arms down,” he said, before resorting to an all-too familiar cliché-laden spiel:
“We have nine finals left and we have to give our all in all of them.”
The Atleti vice captain admitted the team was “hurt with the loss”. “It’s been a shame,” he said.
No injuries were reported after this game.
Antonio López sustained a knock in training on Saturday, while Sílvio remains sidelined as he recovers from his knee surgery.
On a positive note, Tiago was reportedly back in practice on Monday after receiving full medical clearance from the club’s medical staff.
- Atleti were shutout for the 11th time in La Liga this season. In our 2004/05 campaign, we were blanked a record 13 times.
- Gabi and Juanfran will be available next week when Getafe visit the Calderón after serving their suspensions on Sunday.
- Tiago and Mario, with nine and Salvio and Koke, with four, are all one yellow card away from suspension.
- Manzano’s Atlético hauled in 13 points in the first 10 league fixtures, the same amount the club have reeled in under Simeone in the same 10 matches in the return round.