Atlético’s bid for a spot in next season’s edition of the Champions League got a major boost with Sunday’s straightforward 2-0 win over a lusterless Getafe side.
With fourth-place Betis and fifth-place Málaga both falling on Saturday, los Rojiblancos widened their lead over their main competitors for a berth into UEFA’s first-class tournament by bagging all three points against their neighbours to the south.
Diego Simeone’s men have now impressively claimed all 18 points up for grabs at the Vicente Calderón in the present term.
It wasn’t the most attractive affair, but goals through Adrián and Arda — the latter highly controversial but lovely nonetheless — and a stalwart defensive effort, helped get the job done.
The triumph reaffirmed what Atleti fans, for the most part, suspected all along: this year is different.
While in the past back-to-back losses would lead to back-to-back-to-back-to-back losses and all hell would break loose faster than an unsuccessful round of Tetris, there is only peace and calm in Neptuno’s Madrid.
Only the most melodramatic contingent of the Colchonero faithful (about 38 per cent of us data that has no basis in fact shows) were worried about this past week’s pair of defeats.
At this point in the previous campaign (after 11 games), we had less than half of our current point total of 28. We had 13.
Real Madrid, the eventual league champions, had 28 while Barcelona were right behind los Merengues with 25, which goes to show that our present numbers are title-winning numbers.
A victory over either of our upcoming Primera opponents, Granada (away) or Sevilla (at home), would ensure that we would arrive to the Bernabéu for the capital derby on the 1st of December with a lead over our eternal rivals.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone felt his men’s aggression was the key to victory
“The first half was very good,” Atleti boss Diego Simeone said after the clash.
“The team knew what they had to do, looking for the quickest paths that best adapted to our players’ characteristics, the ones that would lead us to taking the match.
“With the exception of one cross from the wing, we had no scares. We, however, were able to play on our opponents’ territory. We were aggressive and that created the path to winning the game. In the second half we were unable to retain the ball but the team was resolute nonetheless.”
‘El Cholo’ then went into a deeper analysis of his coaching staff’s line-up decisions and game plan.
“We played well with Arda and Filipe,” he said.
“Initially, we had selected Adrián to open up play and to have more aerial strength along with Raúl García. After we went ahead, Raúl García moved to the right so that we could gain more speed with Adrián in the middle.”
He continued: “The team won again and once again feels important. This generates excitement and joy within a fan of Atlético Madrid. It makes me happy that the team remains competitive. Since we arrived, the objective was to be competitive. We always want to win but this is a game.
“It was lovely to see so many people at the encounter. It was something very special for Radamel as well.”
Has Adrián finally found his mojo?
The Asturian striker that took Europe by storm last year has finally begun to show some signs of life in his sophomore campaign in red and white following months of dull showings.
A ‘trademark Adrián‘ run in Jaén just over 10 days ago saw the former Deportivo man find the back of the net for the first time in the current term, a mind-boggling prospect considering his spectacular inaugural year at Atleti in which he tallied a totally unexpected 19-goals in all competitions.
The 24-year-old made his way onto the scoresheet for the first time in La Liga this season with his first half goal to break the deadlock against los Azulones.
“Personally, I’m happy,” Adrián said when addressing the press after the match.
“I was very eager to score in league play and I’m happy the time has come today. Plus, it helped the team win.”
Arda gets away with a clear hand ball to pick up his third league goal
Fan favourite Arda sneakily picked up his third goal of the young La Liga season, tying his total in league play from a season ago.
The lovable Turk, who knocked the ball down to himself with his hand in what seemed to be a reflexive action more than anything else prior to dribbling into Miguel Ángel Moyà’s box and severely juking the Getafe goalkeeper and tapping the ball between the sticks, is now level with Raúl García in second place behind Falcao on the team’s scoring chart.
The former Galatasaray man’s strike should have been disallowed however.
Falcao held scoreless again for only the third time in 11 games in La Liga
It’s a rare occasion when our Golden Tiger finds no food in his lair. Falcao came into Sunday’s clash at the Calderón, recently dubbed ‘La Casa del Tigre’, averaging a goal per game there but was shut out for the second weekend in a row.
Any other weekend and the 26-year-old would have been perfectly content with the triumph, but you’ve got to believe he was a bit upset at not being able to put on a show for the over 3,000 Colombians said to be in attendance as part of a promotional event co-sponsored by the club and the Colombian embassy.
About the yellow, blue and red flags prominently being waved in the stands, Diego Godín said:
“It surprised us to see so many people from Colombia. The truth is it isn’t normal that a country’s idol has so many people to go and support him. It’s a positive for the club because they cheered for and encouraged the whole team, which was excellent.”
Spanish television channel Cuatro recently reported on the violent tactics defenders are starting to employ in order to keep the Colombian hitman from feasting, and it seems like the club have had enough of the abuse sustained by their most prized possession.
Simeone, Diego Godín and Adrián all referred to the mistreatment of the striker in their post-game comments.
The campaign to protect ‘El Tigre’
“It’s obvious that if Messi and Ronaldo are touched it’s a foul, and if they do the same thing with Falcao nothing is called. I hope the referees are more attentive in the future.” – Simeone
“I see [the abuse] and I try to talk to the referees about it. They are watching it happen and they are the ones who have to decide. One thing is to grab and another is to block and play with your body. I suppose the referees are making note [of the aggression] and are seeing that they will have to start protecting Falcao more, the same way other footballers are protected.” – Godín
“Each time defenders are all over him more. They don’t let him breath and it’s complicated for him. He’s a born fighter and will always try to do his job. He didn’t score but he did a great job working hard. There’s no problem at all because I’m sure he’ll score again soon. He always likes to score and he is very demanding of himself, but he is very happy about the victory.” – Adrián
- Belgian wonder-keeper Thibaut Courtois secured his fourth clean sheet of the season and 28th shutout at Atleti, helping his own cause by making three fine saves–all from dangerous shots by Pedro León.
- 29-year-old Atleti captain Gabi is the 102nd player to reach the century mark (100 league games) with Atleti (18th Madrilenian), reports COPE radio’s Pedro Martin. He has three goals during his tenure in red and white. The midfielder has been booked four times this season and is one yellow card away from suspension.
- Miranda, like Gabi, has seen four yellow cards and is one booking shy of a one-match ban.
- Atleti have the most goals at home in La Liga this season with 17.
- Pedro Martin also reports that Atlético had never started off a season with eight straight wins at home until Sunday.
- Atleti’s 11 internationals that will be taking part in FIFA action at the midweek are: Juanfran (Panama vs. Spain); Koke and Joel (U-21 Italy vs. U-21 Spain); Kader (Tunisia vs. Switzerland); Godín and ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez (Poland vs. Uruguay); Falcao (Brazil vs. Colombia in New Jersey); Courtois (Romania vs. Belgium), Sílvio (Gabon vs. Portugal); and Arda and Emre (Turkey vs. Denmark).