Things weren’t made easy for Atlético Madrid on Sunday night as they took on Espanyol at the Vicente Calderón.
But the Rojiblancos added another win and clean sheet to their impressive home streak and beat the Catalans through a goal by Radamel Falcao.
Atlético were again led by the aggressive approach of Diego Costa, who chased down a loose ball early on and nearly got Kiko Casilla sent off when the ‘keeper brought down the Brazilian outside the box. Referee Clos Gómez however decided that Costa wasn’t in a position to score and only handed out a yellow card for the goalkeeper.
Diego Costa got more reward in the 37th minute when he was brought down by Héctor Moreno. This time the foul, which was disputable, occurred inside the lines of Espanyol’s penalty box and Clos pointed to the spot. However, if the ref awarded a penalty then surely the Mexican defender also should’ve been sent off for bringing down a player with a perfect opportunity to score. Instead, the referee, who has dismissed Atlético players in his seven appearances at the Vicente Calderón, let Moreno stay on.
Radamel Falcao stepped up and converted the penalty to give Atlético the lead. It was Falcao’s eighth goal from the penalty spot this season, more than any other player in Europe.
Clos Gómez could’ve (or should’ve) sent off Casilla and later Moreno, but allowed the Espanyol players to stay on the pitch. The referee seemed to completely lose control of the match when a brawl erupted between the two teams because of a tough challenge by Tiago. A lot of pushing and shoving ensued with Stuani for Espanyol and Gabi for Atleti the perpetrators according to Clos Gómez, who booked them both.
The booking for their captain would come back to bite Atleti in the bum when in the fourth minute of the added time Gabi received his second yellow for an innocuous foul near the midway line.
Atlético still created opportunities at the start of the second half, despite being a man down. Diego Costa lost his composure when facing Casilla one-on-one and Tiago’s shot went just wide after taking a deflection.
Despite offensive substitutions by Javier Aguirre – the ex-Rojiblanco boss brought on former Atlético Martin Petrov for another familiar face, Simão – the home team were able to pressure Espanyol on their half. Costa, Falcao and Arda, especially, did a lot of defensive work and kept the opposing defence occupied.
After a long dash, Costa put slightly too much power behind his pass to Falcao, who had picked his spot and was waiting for the ball to double our lead. Later Falcao himself rushed past two defenders but lost control over the ball and allowed Casilla to intervene.
In the final minute, when Espanyol were pushing more men forward, Falcao again missed one-on-one with Casilla. This time the Colombian tried to chip the goalkeeper, but Casilla stayed on his feet and was able to keep his team in the game.
However, Espanyol only recorded one shot on target all game and lacked any cohesion to set up dangerous attacks, and so Atleti managed to hang on to their lead despite playing with 10 for half of the game.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Koke (“69 Mario), Tiago, Gabi, Arda (“82 C. Rodríguez); Diego Costa (“88 Raúl García) and Falcao.
Goals: 1-0 Falcao p.k. (“38)