In a performance that could be broken up and described in parts by using some of the poetic names on Valladolid’s squad (Sereno, Bueno, Guerra, Valiente, or Serene, Good, War, Brave), Atlético were able to nurse their 2-0 half-time lead en route to their third consecutive league victory and fifth straight win in all competitions.
Los Rojiblancos overcame a precipitous drop in form after the break and an uncharacteristic goalkeeping slip-up to secure a 2-1 victory over the Pucela outfit on Sunday, but not without offering the many fan clubs in attendance at the Vicente Calderón a heavy dose of suspense for the second Sunday running.
Unbeaten in 15 games (12 wins, 3 draws) and having secured 10 out of the 12 points up for grabs in their first four La Liga matches, Atleti face two stiff challenges in the coming days with trips to venues in which they were unable to come out of triumphantly in the previous campaign, and where they probably won’t be able to get away with any more shenanigans.
Firstly, on Wednesday, los Colchoneros are set to face off against fellow match day-winners Betis in Sevilla – who defeated Espanyol at home 1-0 on Saturday, and then on Sunday they head out to Barcelona where they’ll get their own shot at the winless Periquitos.
Post-game notes and quotes:
The ‘Cholo Factor’ remains in full force
For the 26th time during Diego Simeone’s 37-game tenure at the helm of Atleti, his men scored the opening goal of the match.
“We were very solid in the first half; we pressured high up the pitch, we had a high level of intensity though we lacked precision,” the Argentine tactician said after the game.
“From the 20th minute on, we achieved that precision and the match began to drift into the path we had imagined.”
He continued: “We had talked about Valladolid’s playing style. We knew that if we’d be able to anticipate [their decisions], like in the play that led to the goal, these types of plays could happen.
“Godín’s [goal resulted from] absolute precision with a great interception and then a good sprint accompanied by Diego Costa’s runs that generated the space to allow [Godín] to finish like a striker.”
The 42-year-old then painted a different picture of the last 45 minutes of the bout.
“We retreated and they gained confidence with good possession but without creating goalscoring chances,” he said.
“We had two or three chances within the box that we could have finished much better to secure the third goal.”
Looking ahead to the first of our upcoming away games, Simeone said: “On Wednesday we have a tough match against a Betis team that play well. We don’t stop to look at the numbers.”
Godín delights with a stunning goal
Unwarranted or not, centre-back Diego Godín has been the subject of a lot of criticism over the past months and is frequently blamed for our defensive miscues, taking up the scapegoat mantle previously held by endearing defender Luis Amaranto Perea.
But on Sunday, Godín took the crowd by storm when he seized upon an errant Valladolid pass before zooming forward stealth bomber-like, playing a one-two with Koke and receiving the return pass inside the opposition’s penalty box, exquisitely chipping the ball past helpless Pucela ‘keeper Jaime as if he’s been doing it all his life.
It was the former Villarreal man’s first goal scored from open play since arriving in Spain in 2007, and sixth overall as a Rojiblanco.
“When I broke up the pass in midfield I saw that I could sneak forward by surprise and find myself alone in front of the goalkeeper,” Godín told reporters afterwards.
“I’m very happy about the goal and the victory. The objective was to win and secure three more points.”
Closet Atleti fan Gerard Piqué, who had already expressed his satisfaction with Falcao’s Super Cup exhibition, had some kind words to say about his colleague’s strike late Sunday evening.
“I just saw Godín’s goal against Valladolid…what a spectacular goal!” Piqué wrote on his Twitter account.
Team-mate Tiago, who was handed a rare start in place of Mario Suárez, also had some praise for the Uruguay international.
“He’s a player capable of doing these types of things,” the Atleti vice-captain said.
“He scored a great goal and I’m very happy for him. It helped us out a lot because it opened the scoring. He deserved it.”
Godín adds his name to the long list of Atleti goalscorers in the 2012/13 campaign, joining Falcao, Miranda, Arda, Mario, Koke, ‘Cebolla’, Costa and Raúl García.
Falcao scores yet again but sustains minor injury
As usual when playing at the Calderón, Radamel Falcao found himself in front of the net very often. While he failed to connect solidly on any of his clearest chances and even vented some frustration on Valladolid’s defenseless goal post after a near-miss, eventually, thanks to a penalty won by attack partner Diego Costa, he got his goal.
The Colombian has scored a remarkable 20 times in the 20 games he has played at the Calderón, with Sunday’s strike bringing his account up to eight for the young season and five in Primera División–much to the obvious dismay of an annoyed Lionel Messi, who leads the league with six but has been unable to shake off our tiger.
What Atlético’s official website confirmed is a minor groin strain prevented Falcao from closing in even further on the Argentine phenom in the Pichichi race, as he was forced to come off at the half.
Several sources in the Spanish press have claimed ‘El Tigre’s’ half-time substitution was more of a precautionary measure than anything else, but we await more news on the matter as it is unclear if he will be able to travel to Sevilla.
Costa earns another start over Adrián
Brazilian forward Diego Costa has been winning his coach and fans over lately with his own particular, goofy–though effective–brand of football, earning a second consecutive league start over Adrián.
Though it was the 23-year-old’s least impressive outing thus far, he did manage to win a penalty for us for the second straight week–both spot-kicks proving crucial as they have resulted in match-winning goals by Falcao.
Courtois owns up to blunder
“To the fans that supported me after my mistake, thank you so much! That was the support I needed to be able to save everything afterwards. Thanks!” wrote Thibaut Courtois on his Twitter account shortly after the game ended in appreciation of the fans that chanted his name in spite of his botched attempt at blocking Bueno’s shot.
Not much to read into the reliable young Belgian’s mistake. As he was spotted explaining to his counterpart Jaime in midfield when the teams shook hands after the game, the ball–wet from the rain–just slipped past him. Poor positioning? Maybe a little bit of that too.
But the 20-year-old kept his cool and went on to make some key saves to protect our slim lead.
“The best part of the game was how Courtois reacted to two dangerous free kicks that he managed to smack away,” Simeone said.
“His reaction was very good as was the supporters’ that cheered him on in a very positive way.”
- On paper, Koke started the match off on the right wing of a 4-4-2 formation, while Arda lined-up on the opposite flank. But as proceedings got underway, the pair would interchange sides and both would naturally drift towards the middle, forming more of a 4-2-2-1-1 behind forwards Costa and Falcao. This was particularly noticeable on the 20-year-old canterano’s assist on Godín’s goal (his first assist in La Liga and second overall this season), as he found himself in a left-central position of the midfield when he threaded his perfect pass in to the Uruguayan defender (natural-born attacker?). Filipe and Juanfran spent a great deal of the encounter high up the pitch on the flanks, which allowed Koke and Arda to form their dual-playmaker partnership in the centre while Gabi and Tiago hung back in front of Miranda and Godín.
- Five victories and one draw is Atletico’s best start to a campaign since the Doblete-winning 1995/96 season, reports COPE‘s Pedro Martin. That year, we started off exactly the same way: with five victories and one draw. Destiny anyone?