Atlético managed to take home a point despite finishing with nine players on the field in Getafe on Sunday.
The scoreless bout will lend a lot of credence to the theory that there’s a lack of motivation in Rojiblanco land.
There was always going to be some concern about Atleti’s ability to create chances coming into the encounter given midfield maestro Arda Turan’s unavailability through injury.
Diego Simeone’s charges came out of the gates punching though — looking especially dangerous on the counter in the first half — but they ended up lamenting their early missed opportunities.
Shortly after the break, Atlético began to run out of steam. Los Colchoneros were still in command however, and looked the likelier side to pull off the result.
Starlet Óliver Torres’ entry offered some promise, but Mario Suárez’ second yellow for a very silly hand ball with 20 minutes remaining cost us dearly–sapping us of the dwindling hope we had of running away with a victory.
In the end, we truly were fortunate to have come away with anything at all from this insipid fixture.
One statistic that went under the radar after this clash is that Atleti haven’t allowed a single goal in their last five league exits.
That, along with Thibaut Courtois’ excellent performance against los Azulones, was among the very few positives worth taking from this game.
We remain well on track to qualify for Champions League in spite of our decline in recent weeks, though fourth-place Real Sociedad moved to within 11 points of our direct berth spot.
Next week, we host relegation-threatened Granada at the Vicente Calderón, where we haven’t won since late February.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone wary of opponents having figured out his squad
“In the first half there were passages of the game in which, had we been sharper, we’d have had more options [to win],” Atleti coach Diego Simeone told the press after the tie.
“The team was committed and kept it up until Mario was dismissed. The guys are making a great effort. They have put together a spectacular season and they must keep responding in the remaining eight fixtures.”
After consecutive weekends in which his squad were unable to bag the three points in dispute, Simeone preferred to focus on the bright side.
“I think we can look at it from the perspective of having 60-plus points,” he said.
“The season is long and opponents are beginning to figure us out and are finding solutions. We won in Pamplona, tied against Valencia and here. We would like to continue improving and it’s true we haven’t been as solid as we had been.”
With regard to the two red cards, ‘El Cholo’ said: “It’s a game and sometimes there are situations in which adrenaline and the intensity of the match result in a yellow.
“We’ll try to correct it.”
Courtois ever closer to Zamora trophy
A splendid four-save showing by Thibaut Courtois took the young goalkeeping phenom’s clean sheet total up to 16 in league play this season, a figure that had not been achieved by an Atleti ‘keeper since the 1995/96 campaign–when José Francisco Molina reached 17 en route to the Liga title.
The shutout was Courtois’ 20th overall in the present term, and the Belgian remains the lead candidate for the Zamora Trophy.
Óliver handed a career-high 30 minutes in Primera
This affair will be one of the most forgetful ones of recent years, but if it is to be recalled at some point, it will be remembered as “that game Óliver played in again”.
The Rojiblanco faithful’s biggest gripe with Cholo all season long has been his reluctance to offer Óliver any meaningful playing time. The Argentine tactician finally caved in to the pressure at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, bringing on the Spain youth international with about half an hour left on the clock.
“I leave happy with the minutes that Óliver played that gave us a spike in quality,” Simeone said.
“Then, we were left with one less and he couldn’t continue progressing in the game. It was a very good appearance.”
The gifted youngster shared his experience with reporters in the mixed zone.
“Participating with the first team is always reason to be happy,” he said. “I have to thank [Simeone] for trusting in me.”
The 18-year-old playmaker failed to pull the trigger inside the penalty box when he was presented with a golden opportunity to score.
“It was a shame,” he said. “I saw that I had a close chance but in the end the defender was able to just poke it out and took the ball away from me.”
‘Oli’s’ small size has been cited as his chief impediment, but apparently the club is taking measures to address the issue.
“We’re trying to build up my body to compete at the highest level,” the midfielder admitted.
“I’ve always been happy at Atlético Madrid and every day more so,” he said.
“Every day that I’m at the Cerro [training facilities] the fans offer me affection, and that’s something I need,” he concluded.
“Óliver is the future of Atlético Madrid. He has it all: quality, humility and the affection of the fans and of the dressing room. Hopefully he’ll be here for many years.” – Filipe Luís
A tiger in need of some grooming
Increasingly facing more criticism from the fans and the media, Radamel Falcao was unable to capitalise on two clear chances from his total of five shots on Sunday.
It wasn’t even a good hair day for our tiger, as his characteristically shampoo-commercial-worthy locks were severely unkempt. The Colombian’s body and follicle language seemed to indicate he’s going through some rough times and having a little trouble getting his beauty sleep of late.
The father-to-be even responded to a dig on Twitter Saturday night, when an individual who identifies himself as an Atleti fan wrote to him: “I want you to play decently again, because it looks like you’re already thinking of another club.”
“You find out who’s a good fan in the bad times,” ‘El Tigre’ fired back at his detractor.
Simeone stuck up for his top scorer after the match.
“We know that Radamel is a great player in front of goal,” he said.
“His numbers are incredible. In a league that is so long and demanding, it’s normal that goals are demanded of him, but it’s not easy. He has 22 goals and with eight games left he’s two goals shy of his total from the last campaign.”
Cholo continued: “He commits himself to the club he works for and forwards have spells in which the first chance they have they convert, and sometimes they don’t. He’s okay and he’s on track to repeat his total from last year.
“Hopefully we can always have a striker that guarantees us that many goals.”
“Falcao has played excellently. He’s a natural leader and is always correcting players and the team.” – Filipe Luís
- As had been reported throughout the week, Simeone opted to go with Adrián in place of Arda from the start. “The intention was to have Adrián pull the centre-backs towards him so that he could turn and find Costa on the left,” Cholo said. “In the beginning, we were able to achieve that. Adrián played a very good game and we hope he continues on that same path.” The majority of our attacks came from the right flank this game, with Juanfran being more involved than usual having a partner to link-up with in ‘Adri’. The Asturian’s pace offered us a lot more speed on the counter than usual. Adrián would often blow past defenders, but his crosses were too often well off the mark. Overall, it was a promising outing for the former Deportivo man, but that’s little consolation at this late stage of the season.
- Cata Díaz and Tiago should be in line for starts next week in replacement of the automatically suspended pair Diego Godín and Mario Suárez, who were both shown red on Sunday.
- Koke, with four, and Diego Costa, with nine, each remain a yellow card away from a one-game ban.
- Filipe Luís made his 200th appearance in Primera División on Sunday (111 with Deportivo and 89 with Atlético). The 27-year-old fullback has scored seven goals (one with Atleti) and has 12 assists, Pedro Martin reported.