Atlético’s trip to Málaga was a continuation of Diego Simeone’s managerial debut at La Rosaleda roughly 14 months ago, that encounter also finishing in a 0-0 tie just like on Sunday.
Despite having duked it out in Sevilla on Wednesday at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and playing in enemy territory again this weekend, Atleti took the match to their fully-rested Andalusian foes–out-possessing (55% to 45%) and out-shooting (15 to 6) Manuel Pellegrini’s men on the evening.
It was a battle between staunch defences–the best two in the league in fact–and a game of very few clear-cut chances, but los Rojiblancos always looked the more likely side to find the back of the net.
In the end, the clubs split the spoils, and with the scoreless draw, Atleti took their undefeated streak up to five matches in all competitions.
Clásico victors Real Madrid are now just two points away from catching up to us in second place, and though we gained a point on league-leaders Barcelona, the humbled Blaugrana remain way out of reach at the top of the table.
It’s now time to get accustomed to the slower pace of our remaining schedule. Gone are the days of Atleti’s midweek engagements.
We’ll be back in action next weekend when a Real Sociedad side with Champions League aspirations pay us a visit at Cholo Castle.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone shows no signs of disappoint with the result
“I leave happy with the game,” coach Simeone said in the post-game press conference.
“After having played a very important match four days ago, with a lot of pressure and a lot of mental exhaustion, today the team responded for all 90 minutes, putting together the performance we needed to remain in the top spots in the league.
“The team left nothing in the tank. We dominated the match and had our chances. What was lacking was the final pass to convert the 90 minutes of solid play into a goal.”
He continued: “We took on a great rival that had all week to prepare, that have great players, a great coach and they were playing at home where they usually pull off good games.
“In spite of all that and having played the other day, we commanded the game well.
Courtois retains Zamora trophy lead after 14th league shutout
Atleti goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was called upon to make two saves en route to his 14th clean sheet in La Liga and 18th in official play in the present campaign.
It was no small feat to shutout Málaga at La Rosaleda. They hadn’t been held scoreless at home in almost a year (31 March 2012).
“I think we played a good game,” the Belgian, who is the front-runner for the prestigious Zamora award for the Primera División’s top goalie with an average of 0.80 goals conceded per match, told Atlético’s official website.
“We were lacking goalscoring chances. On Wednesday, we played a tough match against Sevilla, so it wasn’t going to be easy at all today.”
Later in the evening, the 20-year-old was interviewed by COPE‘s “El Partido de las 12” programme, telling the Spanish radio station that he and his team-mates “want to be in first place; everything is possible in football”.
Thibaut on ‘Thibauting’
During his appearance on COPE, the towering ‘keeper was asked what he thought about the ‘Thibauting’ phenomenon and of seeing people from all over the world taking part and submitting their creative photos imitating his fully outstretched saves.
“It started on the Internet with an Atlético fan in Miami,” he said.
“It has been really nice, a lot of people have done it and it’s always a nice thing when you feel appreciated by the fans. I’m more than happy about it.”
He continued: “I’m still young and to be able to play a Copa final and be in second place in La Liga is incredible. And on top of that the whole Thibauting thing is great.”
The press haven’t held back the punches in their efforts to vilify Atleti striker Diego Costa. This is partly the Beast of the Manzanares’ own fault, we admit, but the Brazilian is working hard to improve his image.
The 24-year-old recently claimed he has been staying on the ground after being fouled in order to avoid
assassinating someone a confrontation.
In Málaga, skirmishing often with Anchovie centre-back Martín Demichelis, the forward committed (or, more accurately, was charged with) more fouls (six) than he had in our previous three league games combined (five), fanning the flames of his notoriety.
His physical presence was successfully canceled out by the Argentine Demichelis, who was taken out of the game a minute after Adrián replaced Costa in the 62nd minute.
When a very brave journalist asked ‘El Cholo’ if he brought Adrián on for Costa “out of fear” the Beast would see a second yellow in the game, the Atleti boss responded: “No.”
Sources say the reporter lived to tell the tale.
Cebolla deployed invertedly on the right-wing
Simeone announced on Saturday that Cristian ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez would be appearing in the fold for this match, and as promised, the ‘Onion’ found himself in the starting XI.
What wasn’t expected was for the left-footed Uruguayan to be lined-up on the right flank.
“I felt good,” the talking vegetable said after the game.
“It isn’t easy to play a match when you’re accustomed to playing the final 15 to 20 minutes, but that’s what practices are for, to get in form and to get the coach to count on you.”
Typically and, quite frankly, much more effective as a second half spark plug, Cebolla confessed that playing out of position “took a little getting used to”.
“It was my first match playing on the right, but it’s something I have to get accustomed to,” he concluded.
- Mario Suárez, who will likely be starting more often given Tiago‘s expected-to-be-long injury spell, will not be taking part next weekend when we host Real Sociedad. The midfielder was booked with a yellow card for the fifth time this season and will serve a one-match ban.
- Barcelona’s 11 point lead over Atleti is the biggest margin ever between first and second place in La Liga with 12 games left to go, Pedro Martin of COPE reports.
- The Rojiblanco faithful got a close look at a rumoured reinforcement for next season in the euphoniously-named Frenchman Jérémy Toulalan. Reports in the Spanish press this past week claimed Málaga and Atlético have agreed terms for the defensive midfielder, though, speaking to Diario AS, his agent denied a deal had been struck. “Jérémy will wait until the end of the season to make a decision together with Málaga,” representative Michael Manuello told the Spanish daily. The 29-year-old’s transfer apparently hinges on whether or not Málaga will be allowed to take part in UEFA competition in the following campaign.