Atlético will lament missing out on the chance to move back into second in the league standings on Sunday after a troubling performance at the Vicente Calderón against a depleted Valencia outfit.
With a goal apiece in under seven minutes of play, the match was setting up to be a classic slugfest typical of engagements between these two sides.
The clash quickly degenerated into a fest of slugs however, particularly so for Atleti, who allowed their guests to dominate virtually all facets of the game. This was especially the case in the first half, with Diego Simeone’s men slightly improving after the break.
The stormy conditions on the evening probably didn’t help matters much, perhaps contributing to a dreadfully low pass success rate for Atlético (61%–a league low on the weekend), but then that wouldn’t explain los Che’s much better combination play.
Valencia’s pace was also presenting los Rojiblancos with some real trouble on defence, and matters took a turn for the worse when Arda hobbled off injured in the 27th minute.
The affair trudged along until, by the mercy of the football gods, the final whistle blew.
The shared points were of little value to either club. The Valencians dropped a place on the table from sixth to seventh, while Atleti’s lead over fifth place was reduced a tiny bit–from 15 to 14 points.
Obviously, there’s no real cause for alarm, but there may be some growing concerns about lack of motivation in Rojiblanco land and about our ability to generate offense.
Atleti will now return to the drawing board in preparation for their trip to neighbouring Getafe next Sunday.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone satisfied with draw, mum on referee
“We took on a team that has maintained a squad that has allowed them to be at the top in recent years; a team that is very competitive and is hoarding a lot of talent,” ‘El Cholo’ told reporters after the match.
“They might have the next best squad after Real Madrid and Barcelona, so that’s a credit to us. They played as such in the first half.
“We weren’t able to figure out how to close down on their spaces, but we were fortunate that in each of our attacks it seemed like we could create danger.”
The Argentine continued: “We were closer to putting together the game we needed to play in order to win in the second half. [Nelson Haedo] Valdez’ exit and Cissokho’s entry was evidence of that.”
“If you can’t win, the next best thing is a tie.”
When asked about having only made one substitution — that one by force — Simeone said: “The match called for a great deal of intensity and it was very even. We were better in the second half. I didn’t make any changes because I didn’t see any solutions.”
With regard to the job performed by referee Javier Estrada Fernández, who missed a clear ‘Thibauting’ effort by Jonas inside the box that should have resulted in a penalty in our favour, Cholo simply stated in English: “No comment.”
Welcome to March, Falcao
Though he was involved half as much as strike partner Diego Costa (31 touches for the ‘Beauty’ to 60 touches for the ‘Beast’ according to WhoScored), Radamel Falcao did manage to find the back of the net, waiting until the last day of March to pick up his first goal of the month.
The Colombian upped his league total to 22 this season, and now has 46 goals in La Liga after 60 Primera División appearances with Atleti. His total for the present term stands at 28, eight goals shy of his output from last season.
Despite the worrying signs of Falcao’s increasing inability to link up with teammates each passing week, the forward remains one of the most lethal penalty box predators in the universe.
Most league goals in consecutive seasons with Atlético: Baltazar, 53 (35 and 18); Forlán, 50 (32 and 18); Falcao, 46 (24 and 22). (Pedro Martin, COPE)
Arda injured after international break
As one Colchonera pointed out, it was a minor miracle that Arda returned from a FIFA break unscathed.
Unfortunately, our Turkish warrior sustained what has been deemed by the club as a right ankle sprain following a very rough challenge by Joao Pereira that went unseen and consequently unpunished.
Prior to suffering the knock, Arda had assisted Falcao with a beautiful cross over the entire Valencia back line that the ‘Tiger’ struck home one-time to bring us level. It was the former Galatasaray man’s fourth assist of the season and third in league play.
Tests will be performed on the 26-year-old’s ankle in order to determine the severity of his sprain.
Courtois really wanted to surpass Real Madrid
“It’s a shame about the result,” goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told reporters after the bout.
“We could have passed Real Madrid.”
The Belgian idol’s spectacular back-to-back saves in the 34th minute to deny Piatti and Jonas, preventing Valencia from re-taking the lead, were among the very few highlights for Atleti on Sunday.
“There are still nine games left, we have a good team and we have to fight for second place because we’re so close to it,” the 20-year-old concluded.
- Interestingly, young right-back Javi Manquillo of the reserve side, who filled in for the suspended Juanfran, totalled the most touches for Atleti on the evening with 68. However, the fullback was woefully imprecise with his passing, with an accuracy of 55%.
- Koke, with four, and Costa, with a team high nine, are both one yellow card shy of an automatic one-match suspension after being booked on Sunday.
- As pointed out by COPE‘s Pedro Martin, Atlético have gone six straight league games against Valencia without a win (three ties, three losses). Throughout the same span though, los Rojiblancos have eliminated los Che from the late stages of the Europa League on two occasions.
- Mr. Martin also informed that this is the first weekend of the season in which Barça, Real Madrid and Atleti all failed to win (all three tied).