Just like the previous time Atlético lost in the league, a defeat was followed by another loss in the Europa League some days later.
On Thursday night, Atlético wasn’t able to bounce back from the disappointing derby defeat and fell to Viktoria Plzeň, who overtook Atlético to take the top spot in Group B of the Europa League.
With most of their regulars left behind in Madrid, the Rojiblancos slumped through a dull and disappointing match at the Štruncovy Sady stadium.
In the 27th minute, Viktoria took the lead through Procházka, who headed in a corner. He was left completely unmarked, after the cross had been flicked on by a team-mate at the near post.
It wasn’t the first time that Atlético’s defence had looked shaky. Early on, right back Reznik had shot wide, while Sergio Asenjo saved an unchallenged header by Bakos a few minutes later. At the other end Raúl García had let a huge opportunity to score slip. The midfielder seemed surprised when a loose ball ended up right in front of him and his poor first touch allowed goalkeeper Kozácik to intervene.
Atleti’s right side was formed by the young Javi Manquillo backing up Juanfran, while Adrián occupied the left wing. Adrián tried to set up Diego Costa on two occasions, but the Brazilian forward couldn’t get his shots on target.
Immediately after the break Adrián created an opportunity to score, but instead of taking the shot the Spaniard tried to beat another defender and ended up losing possession. Coming from the bench to replace Juanfran, Koke provided a spark for Atlético and he nearly scored with his very first touches, just missing the target with a shot from distance.
A few minutes later Adrián set up Diego Costa for a huge opportunity, but Kozácik was able to save the striker’s poor strike. The moment was followed up by chances for Manquillo and Raúl García, who both missed the target.
Despite bringing on Saúl and Pedro, Atleti weren’t able to make a final push. Although perhaps Diego Costa did. The Brazilian took the saying literally and got himself sent off. In the added time a Plzeň defender got into the face of canterano Pedro after an Atleti goal was cancelled, and Costa rushed in and knocked over the defender to collect what surely must’ve been one of the most unnecessary red cards we’ve seen in Europa League play.
Viktoria quite easily held on and secured their fifth win in six games, earning them the top spot in Group B. Atleti also advance to the knock out rounds of the Europa League, where from now on we’re likely to see stars like Falcao, Arda and Courtois make an appearance on our road to Amsterdam.
Line-up: Asenjo; Manquillo (“88 Pedro), Miranda, Pulido, Cisma (“86 Saúl); Tiago, Emre; Juanfran (“59), Raúl García, Adrián; and Diego Costa.
Goals: 1-0 Procházka (“27)