Radamel Falcao netted his 25th league goal of the season on Sunday night as Atlético Madrid picked up a vital three points at Sevilla, his sole strike the difference between the teams at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
In a heated affair, the Rojiblancos did what they do best on the road, showing why they have the best defensive record in Spain with a stubborn performance.
The first chance of note fell to the away side early on. After good work from Falcao, however, the ball eventually fell to Mario who couldn’t keep his volleyed attempt down.
It was one of very few openings carved out in a forgettable first half, Negredo providing Sevilla’s best effort with a snap shot that didn’t find the target.
The home side had clearly come out to try and frustrate Falcao, with the Colombian visibily agitated by some of the treatment handed out to him by Botía and Cala.
Much to his dismay, he saw a booking for what was adjudged to have been an elbow on the latter, and the one time he did manage to break free, he looked and failed to find Diego Costa instead of going for goal.
There was little improvement on the entertainment front after half-time, the main talking points involving refereeing decisions and, not for the first time, the actions of Costa, rather than the football being played.
The big Brazilian has had his moments this season, but we saw the ugly side to his game in the Pizjuán. Firstly, he picked up his 10th booking of the season for a confrontation with Kondogbia, which means he will be suspended for the derby next weekend.
Then just minutes later, he threw himself to the ground in a feeble attempt to get Cala sent off for a headbutt, somehow avoiding a second yellow despite referee González González seeing through his dive the floor.
Simeone soon withdrew the 24 year-old, and it was two of his substitutes who combined to provide the game’s only goal. Surprise, surprise, it was the predatory Falcao who will be credited with it, but the chance came about following good work from Adrián and an excellent Raúl García volley that the Colombian prodded home.
The Sevilla backline were busy protesting a possible handball from Mario Suárez in the build-up, and their lapse in concentration was taken full advantage of as El Tigre made it 25 league goals for season.
A header from Coke, brilliantly saved by Courtois, was all Unai Emery’s side had mustered in the second half up until this point, but they did make a game of it in the last ten minutes and probably should have dawn level.
On 85 minutes, Courtois then superbly tipped Negredo’s goal-bound header over the bar, although the Madrid-born striker should’ve scored from the resulting corner. This time with the Belgian ‘keeper beaten by the cross, he could only nod past the post.
Los Nervionenses came even closer to equalising in injury time, Rakitić unlucky to see his curling free-kick rebound off the crossbar. However, our rearguard did what they have done so well all season and saw us through to victory, one of great importance ahead of the derby.
The red and whites now have 6 days to prepare for the visit of Real Madrid, a game that could see us end their title challenge for good should Barcelona win at Athletic and we finally end our erroneous run.
Also, with Real Sociedad and Valencia meeting next weekend, three points will also mathematically seal our return to the Champions League. A huge week lies ahead.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Mario, Gabi, Koke (“88 Saúl), C. Rodríguez (“63 Raúl Garcia); Diego Costa (“67 Adrián) and Falcao.
Goals: 0-1 Falcao (“76)