The Vicente Calderón witnessed yet another last-gasp triumph following Thursday night’s Cebollazo heard ’round the world.
But Atlético’s 2-1 victory over Málaga on Sunday evening, which extended their unbeaten streak to 19 games, was of far greater significance.
With a goal pushed in by the will of the 50,000 Indios in attendance at the Rojiblanco stronghold, as one Colchonero so eloquently put it, the win was Atleti’s ninth straight in official competition, a feat they had never achieved in their over 100 year history.
Falcao, Arda, Juanfran and company are quickly re-writing the history books of our storied club, with Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone authoring yet another chapter in his own tales of glory at Atleti, this time as a coach.
While international breaks are always a downer, at least this next round of FIFA competition will draw out our time way up in the clouds, from whence we look down upon the Málagas, Sevillas, Valencias and Real Madrids of the league.
Atleti’s adventures in La Liga in years past have been highly erratic. Like other Spanish sides, the club has often found themselves uninspired and feeling stranded in no-man’s land given the consistent dominance of the ‘big two’ and the virtual impossibility of finishing in first place.
On the other hand, los Colchoneros have shined in European competition. It’s easier to get motivated for Europa League as the tournament’s trophy is relatively low hanging fruit compared to the domestic title. Likewise goes for our pair of Super Cups.
Now though, equal with Barcelona at the top of the table with 19 points and 5 points clear of third place holders Málaga, our men have reason to stay galvanised week-after-week in Primera División action.
But can they keep up the pace for another 31 rounds?
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone thrilled but, unsurprisingly, remains grounded
Diego Simeone’s passionate goal celebrations on the sidelines and his interactions with the masses at the Calderón do nothing more than seduce a fan base already eating out of the palm of his manly hand.
The people feel they can identify with the legend-turned-manager-turned legend again.
“We played a complete game,” Simeone said in the post-game press conference.
“We were superior in the middle of the field. The strength of the group is our most positive point.”
He continued: “These repeated [last-minute victories] are of significant importance.”
As always, Cholo played down our incredible points haul.
“Numbers are all statistics,” he said.
“Our reality is the match against Real [Sociedad]. It’s an important day for Atlético, to be in such a privileged position after so many years, but we have to continue taking it game-by-game.”
Of the upcoming two-week hiatus from club competition, the former Argentina international said:
“It comes at a good time to work well with those that are staying. We will work hard, intensely. We’ll take advantage of these days by working with those who are staying.”
Falcao scores in sixth straight appearance
Having missed out on a chance to add to his goal tally last weekend–staying behind in Madrid as his team-mates took on Espanyol while he recovered from a groin strain, Radamel Falcao was clearly driven to find the back of the net against Pellegrini’s men, breaking the deadlock after only six minutes had elapsed.
The Colombian international’s strike was his 11th overall of the present season in red and white (8 league goals and a hat-trick in the Super Cup) and he has now found himself on the score sheet in his last 6 appearances (8 appearances if international duty with Colombia is counted for a grand total of 13 goals).
Málaga central defender Weligton, who was credited with the match-winning own goal, admitted to Radio COPE immediately after the clash that he pushed the ball into his own net, though he also whined of a shove by Falcao. Let’s not judge the Brazilian. You’d be a whiner too if your parents botched the spelling of your first name.
“It has been a deserved victory because of the team’s attitude,” ‘El Tigre’ told Canal Plus after the game.
“It’s true that there are moments in which we don’t play with clarity but we always have the drive and we achieved the triumph in the end.”
The 26-year-old phenom continued: “There’s no reason to let our arms down. Upon our return from national team matches we will prepare for our next game, which will be the most important one.”
While referee Pérez Lasa, in his official act, recorded Weligton as the own goal scorer, reporters for Marca, the Spanish newspaper that awards the annual Pichichi prize for Primera’s top scorer, have reportedly credited Falcao with two goals on Sunday. This would give our lethal striker sole possession of the lead for the award with nine goals.
Officially, however, he is tied with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with eight goals.
Emre handed first league start
Simeone surprised the vast majority of the Rojiblanco faithful by handing Turkey international Emre his first league start at the club. Rumours of the largely unexpected decision had surfaced in the Spanish press Saturday night and were confirmed hours before kick-off.
El Cholo recently indicated he was uncomfortable with not having found some playing time for the veteran midfielder–the gaffer apparently impressed with the 32-year-old’s performances in training of late.
Emre didn’t take long to repay Simeone, making his coach look like a genius by assisting Falcao’s opening goal in the very early goings. The former Inter man continued to provide service-after-service throughout the first half, successfully completing three crosses while participating in our characteristic ‘midfield shuffle’ together with Adrián and countryman Arda.
“It has been a complicated match but I’m very happy because the whole team has played well,” said the Turkey national team captain afterwards.
“We have won with a goal at the last minute. I’m very happy I was able to help my team and my team-mates. I thank ‘Cholo’ for the minutes. Although I want to play always, we are a good team. I have great team-mates and the most important thing is that Atleti continue winning.”
He continued, giving a quick assessment of his time at Atlético so far:
“I’m very happy because we are like a family. We have a very good team and I have a lot of great team-mates here. The important thing is that the team wins, not how much I play. The feeling of playing in the Calderón is great. It was my second time and I feel very good. I’d like to thank Cholo and my team-mates.”
Filipe, practically a winger against Málaga
Left-back Filipe Luís spent more time in the opposition’s half than in our own and looked very dangerous again from his advanced position.
The Brazilian, who won three corners and participated in the play leading up to our first goal, told reporters it “was a very tough game in which there were no favourites”.
“Málaga are very strong opponents that also had chances to win but I think we were superior in every aspect,” Filipe added.
“The team has fought and we put our all into every challenge and that was noticeable in the goal at the end of the game.”
The former Deportivo man continued: “The victory gives us a lot of encouragement to keep fighting, to keep working hard and to continue with this mentality of taking one game at a time.”
- Atlético are the only remaining undefeated Spanish club in the 2012/13 season (Barcelona lost to Real Madrid in the Supercopa de España second leg).
- This is the third time Atleti have started a league campaign with 6 wins, 1 draw and no losses, previously occurring in 1951/52 and 1995/96. (@pedritonumeros)
- Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini was in attendance at the Vicente Calderón on Sunday and claimed he was in Madrid to catch a glimpse of Emre and Roque Santa Cruz, the latter on loan with los Boquerones from City. He was obviously too scared to mention any interest in the world’s hottest striker while inside the tiger’s den.