The red and white aftermath: Match Day 18
Without three of their kings on El Día de los Reyes, Atlético were forced to overcome a bit of adversity in Palma.
Nonetheless, they dominated proceedings on Sunday and were unlucky to only come away with a point in the 1-1 draw at Mallorca’s Iberostar Stadium.
Missing best creator Arda Turan, most lethal goalscoring threat Radamel Falcao and defensive stalwart Miranda, los Rojiblancos were still able to dictate play, winning possession handily in direct contradiction to boss Diego Simeone’s counter-attacking philosophy.
Mallorca spent most of the clash entrenched in their own box, but averted danger for much of the evening until Raúl García poked one through to break the deadlock in the 72nd minute.
Only a late costly mistake from an otherwise terrific Filipe Luís prevented Atleti from leaving the island triumphantly.
Our draw and Barcelona’s victory over Espanyol left us 11-points behind the league-leading Blaugrana, while Real Madrid’s wild win against Real Sociedad helped them inch up two points closer to us, reducing our lead over them to five.
Málaga and Betis, in third and fourth place, respectively, are 10 points adrift of us with 31.
On the horizon is our Copa del Rey Round of 16 second leg match away at Getafe on Thursday. We take a 3-0 advantage from the first leg into the encounter.
On Sunday we host Real Zaragoza at the Vicente Calderón for our next league fixture.
The only other time we tied this season, against Levante in our 2012/13 Liga opener, we went on to put together a historic 13-game win streak.
Also bear in mind that no matter what happens against Zaragoza, we’ll finish the first half of the present campaign in second place.
Not too shabby.
Post-game notes and quotes:
No complaints from ‘El Cholo’, who praised the work of the back-ups
“It’s a tie away from home against a very needy opponent and we left behind a great game,” Atleti coach Diego Simeone said in his post-game press conference.
“I leave fine, happy.”
He continued: “I’m feeling good because the team responded like a team, once more, and names are unknown. That’s something extremely important to what is coming up. There are a lot of games left to play and a lot of minutes left to dispute, and we need a group that is committed and that devotes itself to the minutes needed of them.
“The match wasn’t won because of the way football is, but with regard to attitude, intensity, play, opportunities, I have nothing to say to the team because they have turned in a very complete performance.”
‘RG8′ impresses again
Arda’s suspension opened the door for Raúl García to appear in the fold, and the Pamplona-born man did not disappoint.
Together with Diego Costa, Raúl was our most dangerous attacker, hitting the woodwork before scoring our lone goal, his 8th of the season (4 in La Liga, 2 in Copa del Rey, 2 in Europa League).
He’s now in second on the team goalscoring chart behind Falcao, who has 20 in all competitions this season.
Interestingly, if Raúl starts it’s very likely he will score, as his eight goals have come in 13 of his appearances in the starting XI this term.
The former Osasuna man was upset after the game though, feeling Atlético should have done better.
“It’s been a shame,” he said. “We leave with a point that doesn’t feel like much.”
He continued: “[Mallorca's] goal was a shame as was the chain of mistakes we committed there. I feel like we lost two points. We’ve had chances to take the game.
“In the end, we did a lot and come away with little.”
Koke is blossoming into a star
Unfortunately for the Atleti youth product, our Colombian hitman was absent and could not take advantage of his fine work.
The 20-year-old talent continues to blossom and is really benefiting from the regular playing time crucial to his proper development, admitting that he now feels “important” to the squad.
“We had bad luck in the final five minutes in those attempted clearances from which they got their goal,” he said afterwards.
“The team had opportunities to take the game and did a great job.”
Adrián’s slump continues
In his 65 minutes on the pitch before being replaced by ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez, Adrián had a hard time finding a way to get himself meaningfully involved in the game.
There was hope his match-winning goal against Celta would boost his confidence and help turnaround his disappointing form but, sadly, this was not the case Sunday night and his continuing slump is a complete mystery. It’s not helping the Asturian’s case that…
…Cholo is a big fan of Diego Costa
On the other hand, the man that started the season off as Adrián’s back-up, the gritty Diego Costa, put in another fine, albeit at times feisty, shift, earning the praises of his coach.
“Diego is a player that, as we have said on several occasions, is very important to the group, to the team,” Simeone said.
“In the first half, the goalkeeper made an incredible save [to deny Costa] with the tip of his boot. In the second half, the goal came about because of him. He’s a player that is doing well and the group loves him. Hopefully he can maintain the composure and the stability to find regularity that, obviously, is the hardest thing to find in football.”
- Mario Suárez was benched for a second consecutive game. Despite the early gripes about Tiago being favoured over the boyfriend of Diego Costa’s twin sister Malena (the resemblance is uncanny!), the Portuguese veteran, disregarding a shaky first couple of minutes, was quite solid–completing a team high 90 percent of his 62 passes. The former Juventus man and Atleti vice captain has never shied away from showing emotion, famously shedding tears after Atlético’s 2010 Copa del Rey final loss to Sevilla as he was touched by the resilience of the fans still cheering in spite of defeat. On Sunday, Tiago wore his heart on his sleeve once again, or more accurately, wore out the elasticity of his shorts as he performed a funny little dance in a fit of frustration when Mallorca equalised (video).
- Filipe, Gabi, Mario and Diego Costa are all on four yellow cards, one shy of an automatic one-game suspension.
- Atleti have now gone four straight away matches without a victory (Real Madrid, Viktoria Plzen, Barcelona, Mallorca).
- The Puskás award for best goal of the year (2012), for which our very own Falcao is in the running, will be presented on Monday at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich.