Atlético Madrid left it very late against Viktoria Plzeň on Thursday night, but a last minute thunderbolt from Cristian Rodríguez made sure that our European winning run continued.
In a thoroughly uninspiring game with very little to report on, it was the one moment of real class that separated the two teams, with the red and whites showing the hallmark of champions to take the win.
The line-up provided few surprises, as Simeone made nine changes from the team that won at Espanyol on Sunday. There was a debut at right-back for youngster Kader, as well as a first start of the season for defender Jorge Pulido.
With the two rookies coming in, as well as new signings Cata Díaz and Domingo Cisma, our backline had a distinctly unfamiliar feel to it, and took a while to fully accustom to the game.
Atleti failed to dominate the early exchanges, and the only real chances of the first half went to the visitors, who did their best to try and play and put pressure on Diego Simeone’s men.
Emre, another player who was given a rare start, was dispossessed inside his own box, but was spared embarrassment by an excellent last ditch Cisma clearance from Hanousek.
Adrián posed our biggest threat, scraping the crossbar just before the break with a mis-hit cross, and being denied what would have been a harsh penalty by French referee Antony Gautier.
Koke also had a shot comfortably saved, in a largely forgettable 45 minutes in the Calderón.
The second half saw much of the same, as Viktoria decided not to attack as much and reverted to a more defensive set-up. However, they still came close to scoring, and could well have done so if not for a fine Asenjo save from a Prochazka free-kick.
20 minutes from full-time they then had a clear chance wrongly ruled offside by the linesman, although Hanousek hit the post to end any debate the away side may have had.
With time running out, it looked as if our 14 match-winning streak would come to a disappointing end, with Raúl García spurning two chances in the final 10 minutes to win the game.
After a teasing ball from Adrián, the former Osasuna man failed to find the angle to beat Kozacik in the Plzeň goal, and moments later, after a knockdown from substitute Saúl, saw another effort well saved.
Fans were beginning to make their way home, but Atleti were given a last chance free-kick deep into injury time to possibly salvage an unlikely three points.
The whole stadium would have expected Emre to launch the ball into the area, but instead the Turk opted to square for fellow Cebolla Rodríguez, and it proved the right decision.
The Uruguayan international took one touch to control, before emphatically volleying the ball into the top corner from 20 yards and sending home fans into raptures in the process.
It was a stunning strike, and one that on the balance of play was perhaps undeserved, but the crowd couldn’t have cared less. Despite the poor performance, the goal should really lift confidence ahead of the weekend’s crunch clash with league rivals Málaga.
Cholo may not have been best pleased with his men’s showing, but will be able to recall the big names back to the line-up on Sunday.
The Colchoneros now sit top of the group, with a three point cushion on tonight’s opponents, and five ahead of Hapoel and Académica, who drew in Coimbra elsewhere tonight.
Line-up: Asenjo; Kader (“85 Saúl), Cata Díaz, Pulido, Cisma; Gabi, Emre; Adrián, Koke (“64 Tiago), Cristian Rodríguez; and Diego Costa (“61 Raúl García).
Goals: 1-0 Cristian Rodríguez (“90+3)