Barcelona have broken free from the pack in Spain with their 4-1 thrashing of Atlético at the Camp Nou.
For a magical half hour, Atleti led their fans on, allowing the Rojiblanco faithful to get lost in one of those fantasies boss Diego Simeone had referred to on Saturday.
But eventually, as the wise Argentine tactician warned would happen, reality struck.
The reality is that a little over 25 years ago, a very small boy named Lionel Andrés was born on the western shore of the Paraná River, in Rosario, Argentina.
Simeone’s men, disciplined and hard at work on Sunday, contained ‘Leo’ and prevented him and his friends Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi from getting anywhere near Courtois’ box. Meanwhile, they were creating chances of their own by feeding their tiger, who eventually sapped the collective breath out of the Culé stronghold by leaving Busquets in the dust and then delightfully chipping Victor Valdés.
But the fairy tale was quickly coming to an end thanks to a pair of unusual suspects.
Adriano tore us out of our short-lived dream with a stunning blast from way outside the box, and later, Busquets redeemed himself with a killer goal right before the half.
The final 45 minutes were very reminiscent of our Filipe Luís-less visit to the Bernabéu and offered us another heavy dose of reality, as if we didn’t get the picture already.
The reality is that while we replace injured left-back Filipe, one of our most crucial starters, with bench-warming centre-back Cata Díaz, and another key player, Diego Costa, with the long-forgotten former Chelsea and Juve man Tiago, our opponents, who earn over three times as much we do in TV rights each year (€140 million to our €42 million) mind you, have the luxury of bringing on such substitutes as: David Villa, Dani Alves and Thiago Alcântara.
Nonetheless, even if we accept the fact that we were up against arguably the best team of all time and arguably the best player of all time, we can certainly complain that our boys didn’t show up for the second half; that they seemingly went out to save face and avoid further embarrassment only to get thumped anyway.
Those of you who feel Diego Godín deserves some flack for his ghastly mistake, a very rare one in a remarkable season for the Uruguayan, have at him.
But at the end of the day, the real world isn’t all that bad for us Colchoneros.
For what it’s worth (a whole heck of a lot if you ask us), Atleti currently have a lead of 4 points over Real Madrid, 9 points over Málaga, 10 points over Levante, 12 points over Betis (one less match played), 16 points over Valencia and Athletic Bilbao and 18 points over Sevilla.
With one league game to go in 2012 against Celta this upcoming Friday, Atlético can end the year with 40 points with a victory.
We finished 2011 with 19 points.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Barça are “out of this league”, says Simeone
“We played a perfect first half in which we had three very clear goalscoring chances: one hit the post, another missed by just a little and the other one was a goal,” Atlético coach Simeone said after his side’s third loss in the domestic competition.
“We were able to close out all the paths from which they could do damage, and with Adriano’s great goal from their first shot on target, they tied it. The second goal fell right at [Busquet’s] feet. Barça had a significant amount of possession, but the clearest chances were ours.”
He continued: “They made their first chance and the match was decided because of it, because of how decisive Barça’s players were in front of goal.
“It was a tremendous effort by the whole team. I liked how we played. We used our weapons but we were up against a team that plays in a completely different league than the rest.
“They are superior to everyone and this makes the league boring.”
With regard to countryman Messi, whose eighth consecutive brace took him to 90 total goals in 2012, Simeone said:
“He’s the best player in the world. All of Barcelona’s players are great, but he closes things out and so many times breaks matches open. He makes me very happy as an Argentine.”
Falcao reaches the 20 mark in the present campaign
“His first half was incredible,” ‘El Cholo’ said of his star striker Falcao.
“The team created chances for him and he had three. He scored one and hit the post with another. Later, he suffered, because the team didn’t accompany him.”
The Colombian’s beautiful goal to break the deadlock was his 20th overall this season and 17th in La Liga.
“We remain in second place with a fantastic season. We have a game on Friday at our field before the vacation starts and we’re going there to win like we go everywhere else. After that, we’ll continue to work hard to continue on the same path we’re on now.” – Mario Suárez
- Filipe’s injury that forced him off at the break is a right quadriceps strain, according to Dani Hidalgo. The Brazilian will likely miss out on our final game of the year and will hopefully be back in time for our 2013 opener in Mallorca. On his decision to replace Filipe with Cata, Simeone explained: “Manquillo is just a kid and there were too many minutes left in a match that was yet to be decided. Cata closed down the right-flank.”
- Diego Costa nabbed his fifth assist in official play in the present term by stripping Messi of all people before dishing off the ball to Falcao for the Colombian to do the rest.
- No other club have suffered the wrath of ‘the Flea’ more than the men in red and white, reports COPE‘s Pedro Martín. Messi has scored 10 goals in his last 5 matches against Atleti and 20 overall in his career.
- Mr. Martín also informs us that for the first time in their history, Atleti have lost five straight to Barcelona. Their current streak of seven defeats at the Camp Nou is also their worst at the Blaugrana‘s stadium.
- Xavi, according to Vavel, completed 133 passes, more than Koke (33), Arda (28), Gabi (29) and Tiago (23) combined (113).
- Mario Suárez joined the long list of Atleti players with four yellow cards, which also includes: Falcao, Arda, Filipe and Gabi. All five are a booking away from a one-match ban. It’s too bad Filipe didn’t pick one up before sustaining his injury as he will likely be rested anyway against Celta.