After having their way with Rayo Vallecano for a large part of the first 82 minutes of Sunday’s encounter – hitting their neighbours with four goals before an hour of play had elapsed and seemingly cruising to a comfortable victory – Atlético decided to put their fans through the torture chamber in a thrillingly bizarre final 10 minutes that went a little something like this:
Blink. 4-1. Blink. 4-2. Blink. 4-3!
All in good fun though right? Hell no!
Fortunately, Atleti were able to avert an utter catastrophe.
Once the Rojiblanco faithful recovers from that traumatic finale, they will be able to fully appreciate having finished the weekend in fifth in the league table and top dogs in Madrid having played a match less than all four clubs ahead of them in the league table.
Not a bad deal in exchange for three days of Delibasic nightmares.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone, unlike his colleague over at the Bernabéu, shoulders some blame
“I think the team played a good game, understanding the way we had to play against a valiant opponent,” Atleti boss Diego Simeone said in Sunday night’s post-game press conference.
“I think we resolved matters very well and then I rushed myself with the substitutions. I bear the responsibility for the three goals at the end of the match.”
‘El Cholo’s’ words were in stark contrast to the much-publicised controversial comments made by José Mourinho following Real Madrid’s loss to Sevilla on Saturday, in which the Portuguese coach pointed his eye-poker at his players, disparaging them for what he deemed a lack of commitment on their part.
But no need to feel bad for Iker Casillas and crew. That’s your lot when you play for the third best team in Madrid.
“The positives were those 70 very important minutes played by the whole team, especially because they understood the way we had to play and executed; that’s why we took the lead we had taken at the time.
“The match was planned well until the substitutions. I rushed with the changes and the blame for the end of the game lies with me,” the Argentine tactician insisted.
While publicly El Cholo served as a bullet-proof vest for his men, one has to imagine that they received quite a tongue-lashing for their late meltdown.
Costa triumphant in return to starting line-up
Given his recent Rayo past and his presence in the starting XI on Sunday, a lot of the pre-game attention was centred around forward Diego Costa.
After coming painfully close to finding the back of the net five minutes into proceedings, the Brazilian went on to serve-up two assists, start-up our third goal of the match and earn a penalty kick, thereby participating in each one of our scoring plays.
Of the 23-year-old La Liga journeyman’s stand-out showing, Simeone said:
“We took a gamble on him. We see him get better each day, he’s a brave, strong, aggressive kid. He can play on the inside or the outside and the truth is we believed he was the player to exploit the spaces that we could have behind Casado and Tito.”
Assessing his own performance, Costa said:
“I was hopeful about getting a chance to play, but I didn’t know I was going to. I felt good. One must take advantage of these opportunities and be prepared. I keep working as always, though when things go well for you, you go up. Hopefully I continue this way.”
The striker then took a page out of the Book of Cholo when looking ahead to our Europa League opener against Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel on Thursday.
“We have to go there to win,” he said.
“We have the responsibility to do so because we are Atlético Madrid. Not because we are the champions, but because we are a big club.”
Simeone could have a dilemma on his hands going forward because of Adrián’s slow start to the season compared to Costa’s inspired play in the early goings.
Mario draws first blood
It’s now clear that midfielder Mario Suárez has earned the trust of his manager–becoming a regular fixture in the starting line-up.
On Sunday, the Atleti youth academy product snapped a streak of 46 games without a goal, tapping in a Costa cross to open up the scoring on Sunday.
Despite the goal, the former Mallorca man, who was replaced by Tiago in the 63rd minute, was displeased with the late plot twist at the Calderón.
“It’s very good to score four goals, get to their box and create a lot of chances, but it’s a shame they scored three on us at the end,” he told reporters afterwards.
“The positive thing is that we won, that they are three very important points and that we have to keep doing things well.”
The 25-year-old then rehashed the squad’s mission Koke had shared with reporters on Saturday, about how Simeone wants others besides Falcao to find their way onto the scoresheet.
“[Falcao]” is our goal guy and he is going to score a lot of goals, but if we want to continue to grow as a team, others must contribute as well,” he said.
“In my case, scoring goals isn’t my target, but the more I score and help the team…I’ll take them.”
- Koke’s goal, our second of the match, was the Atleti cantera product’s fifth as a member of the senior side. All of the 20-year-old’s goals in red and white have been in league play.
- While many questioned Arda’s decision to cop Falcao’s hairstyle earlier in the week, with fans generally preferring the messy punk rock version of the lovable Turk, the makeover worked. The former Galatasaray captain scored his seventh goal since joining Atleti a year ago. The strike was a carbon copy of Koke’s from just a minute before. Only three matches into our 2012/13 league campaign, Arda is already one goal shy of his La Liga total from his inaugural season in Spain (three).
- Falcao gets his. ‘El Tigre’ bagged goal number seven on the young campaign, converting a spot kick for our fourth and final goal. The Colombian has now scored in five straight appearances (with club and country), picking up his fourth league goal, tying him with Mallorca’s Hemed in second place in La Liga behind Messi, who has six.
- Juanfran picked up his eighth assist as a Rojiblanco with his pass to Arda on our third goal. Apart from the contribution on offense, it was one of the former Osasuna man’s poorer days from a defensive standpoint, as he was guilty of slacking on the coverage of Lass on Rayo’s second goal.
- Seven out of nine points is Atlético’s best La Liga start since the 2004/05 season. (@pedritonumeros)
- The last time Atleti achieved the feat of scoring four goals in three straight games was in October 1997, against Mérida, Zaragoza and PAOK. (@infoatleti)