It was one of those magical 4-0 nights at the Vicente Calderón.
A tiger was on the prowl, out to prove – yet again – that his bite was mightier than that of his feline cousins.
Mario Suárez returned to the starting line-up (perhaps earning the nod by visiting ‘El Cholo’s’ barber before the clash got underway), as did Koke, Filipe Luís and Juanfran, sending the trio of Adrián, Tiago and Cata Díaz to the bench and Sílvio to the stands.
Diego Simeone’s men called all the shots in their 2012/13 home debut, completely eclipsing their reeling red and white brethren for the second time running.
Marcelo Bielsa’s boys, Llorente-less and toothless in their attack, were asphyxiated by our back line and held to zero shots on target.
Meanwhile, Falcao spearheaded a ferocious Atlético onslaught (14 total shots on goal) that feasted on los Leones’ anemic defence and helped los Rojiblancos to the three points up for grabs.
The triumph lifted us up to fourth in the league standings–the first time we finish a match day in a Champions League spot in almost two years (26 September 2010).
Atleti fans will now have the rest of the week to await Friday’s UEFA Super Cup final against Chelsea…oh, almost forgot, and to gloat about their three point lead over Madrid’s current fourth-place team Real (who happen to be in 14th in Spain at the moment–tee hee).
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone earns 20th win as Atleti coach
Atlético legend and current coach Diego Simeone earned his 20th win since taking over for Gregorio Manzano last December. His record, according to COPE‘s Pedro Martin, now stands at 20 wins, 8 draws and 5 losses (57 GF, 26 GA). Not too shabby.
“We gambled on playing offensive midfielders in order to attack with spaces up front, closing out spaces for a Bilbao that in their last two games had scored nine goals,” the Argentine tactician said after the game.
“With that defensive order, the team began to grow and with a Falcao that was extraordinary in the first half, we began to find the path of the game. And in the second half, the alternatives that we have at our disposal on the bench as of today allowed us to continue being as aggressive and intense as we set out to be.”
Simeone continued: “Above all, I liked the guys that came off the bench (Adrián, Diego Costa and Tiago).
“Falcao played an almost perfect game. He was extraordinary.”
After assuring his club should “take one game at a time”, El Cholo looked ahead at Friday’s Super Cup.
“Chelsea are a powerful team in both football and financial terms. With humility and hard work, we will try to play a good game. [The Super Cup] offers a great deal of excitement to Atlético fans.”
“We have a competitive squad,” he concluded.
Falcao: Whenever, Wherever!
With his hat-trick, his third as a Colchonero, Radamel Falcao has now scored a ridiculous seven goals in four games in his career against Athletic.
The Colombian’s three goals place him in a three-way tie with Mallorca’s Hemed and Betis’ Jorge Molina for second place, just behind Messi (four), in the 2012/13 Pichichi race.
Knowing our insatiable ‘Tigre’, he will probably be lamenting a pair of missed clear chances of the sort he typically buries with ease. Relax Radamel.
Afterwards, Falcao told reporters: “It’s been a good effort by the whole team. We’re very happy for having achieved this victory. From the beginning, we took on the match with intensity and we take home a great win.”
He continued: “Athletic are a very difficult opponent and today, we were able to overcome them.
“It’s been a great night in which I scored three goals, I could have had perhaps one more but I leave happy with the three.”
Again, relax Radamel!
“Falcao goal! 1-0 Atlético Madrid! Here at home someone is singing ‘Viva Colombia’!” “Falcao’s second goal reminded me of Cruyff!” – @3gerardpique (Link to video of Cruyff goal Piqué was referring to, which just so happened to be against Atleti, here.)
“¡¡Bravo Falcao!! ¡Viva Colombiaaaaaaa!” – @shakira
Arda shifted to the right
Against Levante, our Turkish warrior was deployed in the playmaker role behind Falcao, but our weakness on the right-wing that resulted from poor showings by Adrián and Sílvio prevented Arda from really making an impact despite his efforts, apart from his wonderful game-tying strike of course.
On Monday, Arda displaced Adrián on the right-flank, and while the position is likely not his favourite (he typically prefers playing centrally or on the left), he turned in a tremendous performance, putting in several solid crosses and winning corner-after-corner while driving Bilbao left-back Inigo Pérez mad with his relentless fighting spirit we’ve long since become accustomed to seeing from him.
Koke takes centre-stage
Interestingly, and much to the delight of his loyal supporters, Atleti youth product Koke, who watched the entire Levante match from the bench last weekend, was tasked with commanding our attack on Monday, taking over in the centre where a man named Diego used to play.
The 20-year-old performed admirably in the role and was responsible for taking most of our free kicks and corner kicks.
“We played a great game,” the Spanish youth international told reporters after the match. “From the first moment, we went out to win and things have turned out well for us. I felt phenomenal. I think I’ve played a good game and little-by-little I will improve.”
He continued: “It’s true that this season will determine how far I can go. I have to work and help the team and do well when I play.”
With regard to team-mate Falcao, Koke said: “We already know he converts all his chances. He’s incredible. We’re kind of used to him though. We’ve all signed the match ball for him and have congratulated him.”
Filipe and Juanfran return
The full-back pair that conquered Europe last season returned in all its glory Monday night. Filipe was particularly impressive, though both players looked fully recovered from the knocks that kept them out of our season opener in Valencia.
The Brazilian was credited with an assist on our first goal, throwing the ball in to Falcao before the Colombian weaved through the Basques’ woeful defence and chipped the ball past Iraizoz.
Costa gets some minutes
Diego Costa stepped onto the Calderón pitch for the first time since 7 May 2011, coming in to replace canterano killer ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez in the 71st minute.
“I only trained three times this week, but I have to take advantage of the minutes the coach gives me,” the forward said afterwards.
“I’m not so well physically, but the truth is I’m very happy for having played and taken advantage of the minutes.”
The 23-year-old then showered the star of the night with praise.
“Falcao’s an incredible person, very calm, speaks well with everyone, humble, and the truth is he deserves everything he gets,” he said.
“He’s a hard worker and I have to take advantage and learn as much as possible from him.”
Tiago blasts his way back to relevance
Portuguese midfielder Tiago, who entered the match with only nine minutes left on the clock in substitution of Falcao, did his best impression of his lethal team-mate by firing off a cannonball from outside the box reminiscent of his spectacular goal against Rosenborg from two seasons ago.
The former Juventus man hadn’t scored since his brace in Málaga of 19 December 2010.
Cisma reportedly signed, Sílvio and Pulido on the way out?
Several sources in the Spanish media reported on Monday that Atlético have signed left-back Domingo Cisma on a free transfer, after the player was released by Racing Santander.
The former Atleti youth academy member also doubles as a centre-back, but is expected to serve as Filipe’s backup.
Madrid-based paper AS reports Sílvio could be loaned out soon, with Manquillo and Kader apparently preferred over their Portuguese team-mate.
According to AtléticoFans Forum addict and AS journalist Dani Hidalgo, “Sílvio doesn’t have too much chemistry with Simeone; Cholo’s not impressed [with him].
Asked about the rumours, Simeone said: “Yes, the relations with the club are daily, nothing surprises us. We have the same needs and are confident we have a competitive team. With regard to the squad, the coach decides, I have no commitment to anyone.”
The paper claims central defender Jorge Pulido will be sent out on loan as well.
- Fans were displeased with Simeone’s decision to leave teen sensation Óliver Torres off the game-day squad, especially considering the young midfielder’s call-up to the senior side prevented him from taking part in the B-team’s match against Ourense, which the reserves ended up losing 3-1. Cholo, who was said to be visibly frustrated when questioned about the issue, told reporters: “There were 16 more adequate players today.” Was ‘Oli’ being punished for picking up some boots at the Bernabéu last week? Probably not.
- Diego Godín was credited with an assist following an outstanding cross that led to Falcao’s second strike, though television replays showed the Uruguayan was clearly offside when he received a headed pass by Gabi. After a shaky start defensively, the oft-criticised defender settled down and even made a goal-saving block towards the end of the encounter.
- Thibaut Courtois earned his first shutout of the season by doing relatively nothing. The Belgian was hardly required to intervene in this game, but nonetheless picked up his 25th clean sheet in his Primera División career. Last season, he had 24 total shutouts (15 in La Liga).
- Kader will be operated on (fractured collarbone) Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for a month.
- Atleti haven’t lost in 11 straight games since last being defeated by Real Madrid on 11 April 2012 (8 wins, 3 draws). (@pedritonumeros)