Atlético Madrid got a hard fought 1-0 victory against a heavily handicapped Rayo Vallecano side.
The game between the two Madrid sides wasn’t always entertaining but it was closely contested, until a goal by Radamel Falcao in the second half decided the encounter.
After Wednesday’s loss to Real Madrid, and perhaps with our upcoming Europa League clash against Valencia in mind, Simeone made four changes to the line-up. He replaced Arda Turan, Gabi and defensive duo Luis Perea and Diego Godín for Salvio, Mario, Miranda and Álvaro Domínguez, respectively.
Rayo started the match stronger and first threatened through Movilla. The popular former Colchonero tested Thibaut Courtois with a shot from 20 yards out, which was tapped over the bar by the young Belgian.
The home side settled down after the opening period, when Adrián and Diego started getting to work. The Asturian provided Filipe with an opportunity to shoot and also twice escaped the attention from Rayo’s defence with an explosive run, but on both occasions the forward was unable to find Radamel Falcao in front of goal.
Diego played an inside pass to Eduardo Salvio, whose shot went wide across of goal.
Just when Atleti seemed to grow into the match, the home side attempted to strike. Sandoval was without Atleti loanees Joel, Pulido and Diego Costa, but the latter’s replacement Raúl Tamudo did well to maneuver himself in a great position and seemed certain to score from close range. However, Tamudo’s header was brilliantly saved by Courtois who kept the ball out with a spectacular save.
Atlético too had a huge opportunity to score a headed goal, but Mario Suárez was denied by Cobeño after failing to direct Diego’s free kick to one of the corners of the goal.
Our alleged summer transfer target Lass Bangoura gave Juanfran a hard time on Rayo’s left wing, and only just missed the target when he cut inside closely before half time.
After the break the first chance was for the Vallecanos with Michu heading just wide.
Out of nothing Atlético took the lead, when from near his own box Juanfran played the ball into Radamel Falcao. At the halfway line the Colombian stepped over the ball, leaving his man behind and with nobody but David Cobeño in front of him. In full speed Falcao went past the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into the empty net to make it 1-0 to Atlético.
It was Falcao’s 30th goal of the season and also our club’s 1,500th on the road in La Liga.
Diego almost immediately doubled the lead with a strike from far, but his shot whistled past the wrong side of the post.
Rayo coach José Ramón Sandoval took risks and took off defender Raúl Bravo for Dani Pacheco, who is owned by Liverpool, but taken on loan by Atleti only to be loaned out to our neighbours. After the change Michu had a chance to shoot, but Courtois held on to the ball in two tries. At the other end Diego came very close to 2-0, but Cobeño got a hand to his low drive.
Five minutes before the end Falcao missed an incredible opportunity to decide the match. Adrián served the ball on a platter for our topscorer, but El Tigre hit only air and completely missed the ball from near the penalty spot.
In the added time Adrián should have either scored or provided Falcao for our second goal, but the 24-year old waited too long and was stopped by Rayo’s defence. It had no negative consequences, because immediately after the ball was taken off him, referee Mateu Lahoz blew for the final whistle.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Domínguez, Filipe; Salvio (“60 Arda), Tiago, Mario, Diego (“90 Perea); Adrián and Falcao.
Goals: 0-1 Falcao (“65)