Atlético rained on Sevilla’s parade on Sunday, defeating their opponents on the final day of the Andalusian capital’s April Fair and snapping their six-game win streak at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
With both sides fittingly looking hungover as the merry-making and festivities came to a close in Seville, Atleti made the most of their only clear chance of the evening to take the three points up for grabs.
For the first time since the Rojiblancos’ Doblete-winning season in 1995/96, the club have tallied 21 wins.
A sloppy, start-stop and combative affair, it was nonetheless one that undoubtedly pleased Atleti boss Diego Simeone, who — shortly after coming to the rescue in December of 2011 — admitted he’d be happy “attacking once and scoring one goal” as long as his men came out triumphant.
That’s exactly what happened in Nervión.
Los Colchoneros, who got the best of one of their most bitter rivals for the third time in the present campaign, are now undefeated in their last five exits in La Liga, winning in three of those trips and drawing on two occasions.
More impressively, Atlético’s league’s best defence and goalkeeper have not allowed a single goal in those five forays.
Next weekend, Atleti will square off against fellow Copa del Rey finalists Real Madrid at the Vicente Calderón–without question the Rojiblanco faithful’s most-anticipated league bout.
Not only would a victory over our neighbours finally put an end to our miserable over-13-year-long winless spell against them, but it would also result in the clinching of a Champions League spot.
Atlético fans will restlessly have their eyes fixed on the falling sand of the hourglass until Saturday’s derby kicks off.
“We know how excited we are and our fans are about [the derby]. We’ll go out to win that game like we did at the Pizjuán.” – Diego Godín
Post-game notes and quotes:
Mr. Red and White
Decked out Reservoir Dogs style on the sidelines (you can call him Mr. Red and White), Diego Simeone was fired up during a clash that bore a lot of resemblances to some of Quentin Tarantino’s trademark themes: excessive violence and profanity, and badasses–in this case, personified by ‘El Cholo’ himself.
“Once again we faced off against a great opponent that offered a new system,” Simeone said after the encounter.
“As a result, we tried to control them holding more field possession than possession of the ball. We could’ve capitalised on one of our counters in the first half had we been sharper. The game was even more jammed in the second half. It was a match with a lot of tension and enthusiasm, and luckily, the goal that led us to victory appeared.”
He continued: “It’s a strong victory because it’s not easy to win on this pitch. You have to suffer and work hard.”
On his approach to Unai Emery’s strategy, Simeone said: “We knew that they could play with a three-man back line and we tried to let their centre-backs hold onto the ball to control the game behind their backs and narrow the spaces for their best players, like Rakitic, Navas, Negredo and Reyes, and I think we achieved that.
“We’re without Arda, whose an important player, and the team has reacted well. Tiago has also been unavailable and the team has reacted well. I repeat myself because I’m proud of my players.
“Hopefully, the fans are happy with the work of their team.”
Thibaut ‘Just Give Me The Zamora Now’ Courtois
In a very dull night when it came to individual performances for Atleti, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was hands down (and up, and to the left, and to the right) the squad’s star.
The Belgian wonder is putting together what will surely be remembered as the best season for any ‘keeper in club history, and it’s no exaggeration to say one of the best in La Liga history.
This win simply would not have been possible without our dear ‘Tibu’, who picked up his 18th clean sheet in Primera action–tying Abel Resino’s record set in the 1990/91 season, COPE pointed out. The 20-year-old has six games left to surpass Abel’s mark.
Falcao improves on inaugural campaign in Madrid
Coming off a two-goal performance against Granada a week before, ‘El Tigre’ was having a rough outing in Sevilla.
Defender Cala was making life miserable for Falcao, who wasn’t getting much help from referee José Luis González González. The Colombian was booked after his first foul: a retaliatory elbow to Cala in the 11th minute after the centre-back had smacked him around a number of times with impunity in the opening 10 minutes.
But our tiger got the last laugh, breaking the deadlock in the 76th minute with a reflexive deflection of an off-target volley by Raúl García after an ultra-classy lob in by Adrián.
The goal was Falcao’s 25th in La Liga this season, tying a career high in a single year of league play set at Porto in 2009/10.
The lethal hitman already has one more than he totalled in his inaugural campaign in the Spanish top flight.
It was the 27-year-old’s eighth match-winning goal in the present term.
- A week after starting and nabbing one of Atleti’s five goals against Granada, Raúl García came on in the 63rd minute and later unintentionally provided an assist for Falcao, his third of the season and second in La Liga.
- Diego Costa’s yellow card, which currently stands as his 10th, will likely be appealed and the club can make a solid case that the Brazilian didn’t foul Kondogbia–with whom he had previously had a much-publicised encounter in the Copa del Rey semi-finals. There was some concern the booking was due to protesting, which would be very difficult to overturn, but referee González González’ official act read: “Diego Da Silva Costa was booked for the following reason: knocking an opponent down when challenging for the ball.” Should Atleti fail to appeal or should the appeal prove unsuccessful, Costa will be unavailable for the derby next weekend. The forward probably should have been booked for this cringe-worthy example of horrible acting though.
- Adrián, and very likely one of our staff members, will secretly be praying Costa will be suspended in the hopes Cholo will roll out with the Asturian against Real Madrid. ‘Perfect 7’ played a crucial role in the play that led to our lone goal, as he was the one who crossed the ball to Raúl. “Diego Costa is a spectacular player that is often gone after [by our opponents], but he offers us so much,” Adrián said of his teammate. On the possibility of starting against Real Madrid, the former Deportivo man told reporters: “I’ll have to train hard because there are many days left and the coach is the one who decides. We’ll see who plays but I have to do well in training this week.“
- 18-year-old Atleti B midfielder Saúl made his league debut with the first team when he replaced Koke in the 89th minute.
- Atlético have, by far, the most clean sheets in La Liga in the present campaign. Their total of 18 shutouts are followed not-so-closely by Málaga, who have 12. The club improved on their clean sheet record in a single season set last weekend, which now stands at 27.
- Koke avoided a fifth yellow that would have resulted in an untimely ban, however, the gifted midfielder sustained a knock to the knee–the severity of which is still unknown. Hopefully it’s just a bruise and the 21-year-old will be fit to take part on Saturday.