11 wins in a row. 16 straight in UEFA competition and 21 games unbeaten.
Those are the numbers that go with Atlético’s unbelievable streak which just goes on-and-on-and-on.
On Thursday, Simeone showed faith in his reserves and the ‘B-team’ didn’t disappoint as they went three for three in the UEFA Europa League.
Not a lot of supporters had made their way to the stadium on a rainy night in Madrid, but those who did saw how beautiful goals by Diego Costa and Emre brought Atleti two up on the scoreboard before a late rally by Académica almost led to an undeserved point for the visitors.
Atlético had started off well, with Koke delivering a dangerous low cross to Adrián after just two minutes. The Asturian, who is desperately looking for his first goal of the season, hit the side netting and was unfortunate with his finishes on Thursday night despite several efforts.
In the first half the Rojiblancos dominated the game but were unable to break down Académica’s defence. The only times the fans at the Vicente Calderón were lifted off their seats was when Atleti shot from distance, with midfielders Koke and Emre most active with their attempts.
Académica were clearly out-matched and hardly crossed the midway line, but they did get one big opportunity in the first half when Edinho beat Jorge Pulido in a sprint. However, backup goalie Sergio Asenjo showed to be a reliable stand-in for Thibaut Courtois and took care of the Portuguese’s low drive.
Shortly after the break Atlético broke the deadlock when a Koke corner was headed towards the far post by Tiago, where Diego Costa spectacularly volleyed the ball past Ricardo.
The Brazilian almost bagged his second a few minutes later, but he shot straight at Académica’s ‘keeper. Ricardo recovered quickly to also deny Adrián in the rebound.
Adrián was again shut out by the 30-year old later on, when Ricardo did extremely well to stop our ‘Number 7’s’ scissor kick.
A fantastic free kick by Emre put Atleti 2-0 up. Just like Sunday, when ‘Cebolla’ came on to win a free kick on the edge of the area and enabled Falcao to score, Cristian Rodríguez was fouled just outside the box. In the absence of ‘El Tigre’ it was Emre Belözöglu who stepped up, and the Turk curled the ball perfectly in the top corner, leaving absolutely no wiggle room between the post, the crossbar and his fantastic curve-ball.
According to the well informed InfoAtleti, we hadn’t scored a free kick in two years only to score from a dead ball in consecutive games.
Emre’s strike seemed to seal the tie, but a couple of minutes before the end, Salim ‘Sam’ Cissé brought his team back into the game. Sam’s strong header left Asenjo without a chance and made for a nervous end to the game.
Cleyton came closest to scoring, but his attempt ended up in Asenjo’s gloves. After surviving a late corner, Atleti were able to hang on and avoided a late slip up at home.
The 2-1 victory firmly cements Atleti’s place at the top of Group B, where we lead with 9 points from 3 games and a goal difference of +5. Elsewhere Viktoria Plzen beat Hapoel 2-1 in Tel Aviv.
Line-up: Asenjo; Sílvio, Cata Díaz, Pulido, Filipe; Gabi, Tiago; Koke (“60 Rodríguez), Emre (“76 Raúl García), Adrián (“82 Saúl); and Diego Costa.
Goals: 1-0 Diego Costa (“47); 2-0 Emre (“68); 2-1 Sam (“86)