Atlético Madrid have concluded the 2011/12 La Liga season with a 1-0 win away at Villarreal.
A late goal sent the home team down to the Segunda División, while it leaves Atleti in 5th place. The Rojiblancos had hoped to beat Málaga to a Champions League spot, but our rivals didn’t slip up and claimed the fourth position.
Diego Simeone made two changes to the line-up that started in Bucharest. Eduardo Salvio replaced the suspended Arda, while Tiago returned from suspension and took the place of Mario Suárez.
Before kick-off Villarreal’s players applauded Atlético for their Europa League win by forming a pasillo, a guard of honour. However, as soon as the match had started the home side didn’t hold back, as they desperately needed a win to avoid any chances of relegation.
The first and only big opportunity in the opening period was for Hernán Pérez who found himself free on the edge of the box, but the winger’s shot was far off.
Ten minutes later Marco Rubén had an opportunity to shoot from a similar position, and while his shot came closer it also steered away from Courtois’ goal. Atleti soaked up the pressure and looked to break out quickly. After half an hour this strategy almost paid off, but Salvio’s volley from close range was blocked by a last ditch tackle.
Veteran Marcos Senna came close with a characteristic attempt from far out, as his low drive whistled past the post. Shortly before the break Villarreal again threatened, when Carlos Marchena headed just wide from a corner.
After the break the team in yellow retreated and allowed Atleti to get into the game. After an hour of play this almost lead to the opening goal. An excellent cross by Salvio was volleyed against the crossbar by Filipe who appeared surprisingly inside the box.
A minute later Eduardo Salvio himself nearly scored with a strong effort from outside the area, but his shot was saved spectacularly by Diego López.
Just as spectacular was the stop made by Courtois to deny Marcos Senna from a free kick.
The match seemed to bleed dry in the second half, as the home side refused to take any risks while Atleti were unable to set up any decent attacks. Just as the regular time seemed to come to an end it was Radamel Falcao who scored, his 8th goal in 4 appearances against Villarreal. The Colombian striker headed in a corner to give Atleti a late win.
It was Falcao’s 36th goal in his 50th game in red and white.
Meanwhile in Madrid, Rayo took the lead to jump over Villarreal in the table and leave them in 18th position. The Yellow Submarine went forward one last time, but Marco Rubén’s header went an inch wide of the post and left his team in the relegation zone. And so the team with the fewest goals scored again couldn’t strike when they desperately needed a goal, ultimately leading to their downfall.
Unfortunately for Atlético the match at La Rosaleda between Málaga and Sporting finished 1-0, leaving us two points behind the Boquerones and 5th in the league table.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran (“75 Mario), Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Salvio, Gabi (“58 Koke), Tiago, Diego; Adrián and Falcao (“91 Domínguez).
Goals: 0-1 Falcao (“88)