The red and white aftermath: Match Day 24
There we go.
Atlético snapped their three-month long winless streak on the road with a 3-0 victory at Valladolid, thereby averting a three-game skid and removing the dark cloud their ugly midweek defeat to Rubin Kazan cast upon them.
Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone fielded his strongest line-up in Pucela after heavily tinkering with his squad in previous encounters.
It seems the Argentine tactician has learned his lesson when it comes to the reality of his team’s depth, or lack thereof.
Though few in Rojiblanco land would’ve admitted it pre-kick-off, there was probably little faith in the club’s prospects of snatching up the three points in dispute at the José Zorrilla.
But when the starting XI was revealed, hope crept in.
Diego Costa was back in tow from suspension, while our reliable central defensive pairing of Miranda and Diego Godín were also both in the fold. Add midfield marshal Gabi, and Koke and Arda to the mix, and there was no reason to believe our boys wouldn’t be able to gut out a result.
The outcome? Three goals scored and not a single shot on target allowed, while the vast majority of the game was played out on our opponents’ half. Could this be the end of the rotation era?
The top five teams in Spain all came out of this round triumphantly, so second place Atleti retained their four point lead over third place Real Madrid. Valencia, vying for the fourth and final Champions League berth spot, remain 13 points adrift of the men in red and white.
Sunday’s scoreline would be enough to overturn our 2-0 deficit against Rubin in Russia. Is a heroic comeback in the cards for Atleti?
Next Sunday, Javier Aguirre’s Espanyol visit the Vicente Calderón, where we’ll look to extend our perfect home record in La Liga.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone expresses great pride in his “hombres”
“I feel proud of my team,” ‘El Cholo’ told reporters after the clash.
“This is a team of men, of players that understand what the squad is capable of. This game was possibly one of our best games of the season.”
He continued: “‘Cebolla’s’ goal and Raúl’s entry exemplified the commitment the players have to the team and their understanding that, above all else, above the individual necessities that everyone has, the team must be placed ahead.
“We’ve put together a very solid, very aggressive and very intense match. The result was never in danger.”
‘Beauty’ and ‘the Beast’
Radamel Falcao, with his princess-like locks, handsomeness and soft demeanor, embodies beauty; while Diego Costa, with his size, grungy style, hot-blooded nature and ferocity, embodies beastliness.
Together, the fairy tale-like pair form one of the most daunting strike forces in Spain and, perhaps, in all of Europe. Both found the back of the net in Valladolid on Sunday.
The Colombian’s opening goal in the 11th minute was his 20th in the present league campaign and 24th overall this season. ‘El Tigre’ is four goals shy of his Liga output from the previous term and still has 14 matches left to go.
Falcao became the second Atlético player ever to score 20 goals or more in two consecutive Primera División seasons, Pedro Martin reports. Argentine-born Spanish striker Rubén Cano was the first to achieve this feat after tallying 20 in the 1976/77 campaign and 21 in 1977/78.
Costa, whose ability to retain the ball up top and whose relentless pressure helps Atleti pin their opponents back in their own half, allowing our attack to set up or offering midfielders and back line extra time to organise themselves in preparation for an opposing counter, picked up his fourth league goal and 12th in all competitions with his second half strike.
The Brazilian is easily having his best year as a professional and is red hot at the moment with five goals in his last five games. That’s without mentioning his six assists and three penalties won so far.
The 24-year-old claimed his teammates were fueled by their crushing loss to their Russian opposition this past Thursday.
“We’re coming off a defeat to Rubin that angered us,” Costa told Atleti’s official site.
“I was eager to play again, to be with the team and I was able to do so in Valladolid, where I had enjoyed a good spell and left behind a lot of friends.
“We came into the game strongly, scoring an early goal and we put on a very good display. It will be tough to beat us [when we play] like that.”
“Sometimes opponents come after me, looking to take me out of the game. But what some end up doing is getting me even more into the game.” - Diego Costa (Radio Marca)
Gabi, the midfield marshal
Team captain Gabi is the squad’s most unsung hero. The Atleti cantera product is often remembered when he isn’t on the pitch, as was the case on Thursday when Simeone’s men lacked order and resolve in midfield.
The former Zaragoza man led the team in touches on Sunday with 83 according to football statistics site WhoScored, which also awarded Gabi with their Man of the Match honours.
Atleti had tremendous away support
“Since before the game started, only Atleti chants have been heard; plus, at decibels similar to those at the Calderón,” Diario AS journalist Dani Hidalgo, in attendance at the match, wrote.
According to Atlético’s official site, over 2,000 members of the Rojiblanco faithful made their presence felt at the Pucela stronghold.
“Good win for the team, we have to continue like this! To those Atléticos that were at the stadium supporting us, thank you very much! Muy grande!” - Thibaut Courtois, via Twitter
- Cristian ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez, a fan favourite because of his intensity and tenacity when coming off the bench, bagged his first league goal with Atleti and third overall since joining the club.
- An interesting characteristic of our attack on Sunday was Filipe Luís’ diminished role. The Brazilian was less involved than usual from the left flank, with Juanfran, who is having a quiet season, much more active from the right on the evening.
- Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois now has 12 clean sheets in La Liga in the current campaign, more than any of his peers in Spain. In fact, Atlético are the league leaders in the shutout category and have not conceded a goal in 34 of 70 matches under Simeone’s command, COPE reports. Our Belgian shot-stopper has 16 shutouts in all competitions in 2012/13.
- Atlético youth product Koke’s superb season continues with the 20-year-old delivering yet another very fine performance on Sunday. The gifted midfielder notched his seventh assist (sixth in La Liga) with a splendidly headed pass to Costa.
- Diego Godín made his 100th appearance in red and white (75 in La Liga, 6 in Copa del Rey, 17 in Europa League and 2 UEFA Super Cups). He has scored six goals in official play with los Colchoneros. (COPE)
- Godín and Mario Suárez have made it through another week on four yellows. No Atleti player was booked against Valladolid.