Atlético were held to a scoreless draw against Deportivo in a useless game that nonetheless offered the capital club a very useful point.
It’s interesting how expectations can change so quickly.
Had fourth place been secured by Atleti in previous campaigns, as was the case to virtually no fanfare Saturday night, celebrations alongside Neptuno would have been imminent moments after the final whistle had blown.
But an anemic offensive performance that produced zero shots on target (what more can you expect when your most lethal attacker is prancing around in “My Little Pony” themed boots?) was hardly the cause for celebration.
As usual in the land of Tomás Roncero, referee incompetence was rampant, but probably evened out overall.
Los Rojiblancos got away with two considerably clear penalties, though they were robbed of a legitimate goal for a nonexistent offside.
As poor as our efforts were up front, our defence held up their end of the bargain once again–limiting the pressure on Thibaut Courtois en route to our 19th clean sheet in La Liga.
On Wednesday, it will be back to Galicia for Diego Simeone’s men when they will take on Celta in Vigo–a match that was rescheduled in order to accommodate for the Copa del Rey final on the 17th.
Atleti then host Barcelona on Sunday, our last test before we take on Real Madrid for the King’s Cup.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone feels there’s work left to be done
“It was a complicated and tough match,” Atleti boss Diego Simeone said following Sunday’s draw.
“They showed that they have been working well in recent weeks, and each team went out in search of the goal with their weapons, but we were closer to scoring.
“We’ll look to continue improving in the remaining four games. We still have very important things to fight for.”
‘El Cholo’ refused to criticise Ayza Gámez’ performance, excusing him like so: “Referees have to do their job at very high speeds.”
Courtois into the Atleti record books yet again
Having previously improved on former Colchonero goalkeeper Abel Resino’s mark of 800 minutes without conceding a goal at the Vicente Calderón, Belgian shotstopper Thibaut Courtois has surpassed Abel’s club best total of 18 shutouts in a single season.
Courtois now has 19 clean sheets in Primera División play in the present term, and has a solid chance to dethrone Abel in another department: consecutive minutes without allowing a goal in away games with Atlético.
Should Thibaut prevent Celta from scoring after 17 minutes on Wednesday, he will break Abel’s record of 613 minutes without conceding outside of the Calderón, according to Atlético’s official website.
“I didn’t have a lot of work to do but it’s important to leave the goal at zero,” the very-soon-to-be-21-year-old goalie said after the game.
“We had already played here during the preseason and we tied at two goals apiece, at a stadium where there is a great atmosphere and a lot of pressure from the public. It’s a tough ground. They were playing for their lives to avoid relegation. We knew it would be difficult.
“There was a lot of intensity throughout, but it wasn’t a game with many clear chances. In the end, there were very few chances. A draw is logical.”
Courtois continued: “We clinched at least fourth place, but that’s a pre-qualifier for the Champions League and we want to qualify directly. There are four games left and we have to win. We have two games at home and two away in which we can win.
“Today, we were missing a goal.”
“Thibaut is doing a great job. On defence, we try to prevent our opponents from scoring but we know we have a great goalkeeper.” – Miranda
Miranda goes on the record
Atlético’s defence is the stingiest in La Liga, having allowed seven less goals than Real Madrid and eight less than top-of-the-table Barcelona.
Our total of 17 away goals allowed is less than the amount 13 teams in the Spanish top flight have conceded at home.
Brazilian defender Miranda, who makes up a quarter of Atlético’s league-leading back line, claimed he and his team-mates were “happy about Champions League qualification”.
“We did it, but now we must continue to work hard to finish in a higher position,” the centre-back said.
The 28-year-old was very fortunate not to have been charged with a foul on Depor’s Bruno Gama inside the penalty box in the early goings.
Asked about the ref’s job on the night, Miranda said: “Perhaps I’m not the ideal person to talk about the refereeing. I think there were good calls and bad calls, but this is football.”
The former São Paulo man then spoke of his team’s objectives for the final stretch of the season.
“We’re going to fight until the end, until the last game so that we can finish as high up on the table as possible,” he said.
“The most important thing is the next game. We have a very important final coming up but we want to secure third place and, if possible, second.”
- Adrián put together a very decent performance, linking up well with Falcao–to whom he provided several key passes, that with a little more luck, would have resulted in a goal. The Asturian forward displayed the speed and class he beguiled us with last season, and at this point in the current one he should only be looking to finish strongly and hope for a better start in 2013/14, though it’s unclear whether that will be in a red and white uniform.
- 26-year-old midfielder Raul García made his 250th appearance in La Liga (101 with Osasuna and 149 with Atlético). Raúl has scored 32 goals in his career (20 with Osasuna and 12 with Atlético) and has tallied 25 assists. He literally showed a little improvement from last week–his pass success rate jumped to 49% from a lowly 48% against Real Madrid in the past derby. The midfielder, who has appeared in more games in the present campaign (45) than any other Atleti player, remains the club’s third highest goalscorer this season with nine goals.
- Looking like someone who had been stranded on an uninhabited island for weeks, Arda Turan made his return from his long injury layoff that saw him miss out on action during the entire month of April. Ironically, the Turk was razor sharp after coming on for Cebolla in the 66th minute, completing 24 of his 27 passes.
- Though Óliver didn’t save the day with the 20 minutes Cholo handed him towards the end of the game, as many in Rojiblanco land probably mistakenly expected the gifted youngster to do, he did show, with every graceful touch of the ball, what all the fuss is about. 18-year-old midfielder Saúl Ñíguez also came on, but was hardly involved in the 10 minutes he spent on the pitch. “As members of the coaching staff, we can’t impede the growth of the kids from the cantera,” Cholo said after the bout. “We look down [to the reserves] and they know that. Óliver is fulfilling our needs and the necessary time to make it onto the first team and today, he showed that he has a lot to offer us.“
- Atleti, the strongest team in the league when it comes to capitalising on set pieces, were woeful with their corners against Deportivo. Our first eight were unsuccessful. Let’s hope that with Koke back in tow for our trip to Vigo we see some major improvement.
- Atlético haven’t conceded a goal in their last six away games, tying their record on the road previously achieved twice (1990/91 and 1995/96). Should they shutout Celta on Wednesday, they will tie a record held by Barcelona of seven straight away games without conceding a goal, Mister Chip reported.
- Los Rojiblancos have qualified for European competition for seven consecutive seasons for the first time since the period spanning between 1970 and 1977, according to Pedro Martin.
- Former Atleti defender Luis Amaranto Perea waited 473 appearances before scoring his first goal as a professional footballer in 2012. ‘The Legend’ now has three with new club Cruz Azul, having struck twice in a span of 15 days. Here’s a clip of his spectacular header against Monterrey on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI9zt3v9Kpg.