A year after casting out Villarreal from Primera, Atleti dealt Real Zaragoza a final deathblow with their 3-1 victory at La Romareda.
For the second season in a row, Atlético played the role of executioner on the last round of La Liga, even appropriately dressing in black for the part.
With the loss, los Maños, along with Mallorca and Deportivo, suffered the daunted drop to Segunda Saturday night.
Six changes from the Copa del Rey winning line-up that also faced-off against Mallorca last Sunday, resulted in a first half that played out as drably as could be expected from a watered down version of Atleti.
The second half, for the most part, fared no better—until substitute Arda Turan got the party started with less than 10 minutes left on the clock.
The Turk crushed the hopes of Zaragoza fans with a scorching blast to break the deadlock in the 84th minute, though a Postiga goal in the 89th seemed to offer our opponents a lifeline.
But Diego Costa extinguished the Romareda’s glimmer of optimism with a last minute brace.
Atleti’s ninth triumph on the road ends a glorious campaign that included another Super Cup title and Copa del Rey trophy, as they finished with 76 points—a total that would have been enough to win the league in 1997/98, 1999/00, 2001/02 and 2006/07.
The club’s priority will now be to find a suitable replacement for superstar striker Falcao, so there might be a couple of rumours here and there over the summer.
The lucky soul to take the place of the tiger and don the mythical red and white No. 9 shirt will arrive with a lot of pressure on his shoulders ahead of a Spanish Super Cup match-up against Barcelona and our return to the Champions League.
Post-game notes and quotes:
‘Cholo’ earns applause without even saying anything
For the second time on Saturday, an Atleti press conference ended abruptly. Following Falcao’s tearful farewell at the Calderón earlier in the day that ended sooner than expected, Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone also cut his appearance before the media short after the game.
“I’m sorry, but there will be time to analyse Atlético’s season later on,” Simeone said.
“Out of respect for our opponents, I think it’s best not to speak.”
‘El Cholo’s’ noble gesture did not go unrecognised by journalists in attendance, who applauded the Argentine tactician for his reverence.
Courtois becomes sixth Atleti goalkeeper to win Zamora Trophy
Atlético’s on-loan shotstopper Thibaut Courtois followed in the footsteps of former Rojiblanco goalkeepers Tabales, Marcel Domingo, Reina, Abel Resino and Molina, becoming the sixth Colchonero to win the prestigious Zamora Trophy.
The prize is awarded to the ‘keeper with the lowest goals-allowed-per-game ratio in the Spanish top flight at the end of the campaign.
The Belgian’s accolade caps off a majestic season of broken records and broken curses, by both Thibaut and Atleti.
The 21-year-old had previously surpassed Abel’s marks of consecutive minutes without conceding a goal both at home and away, and his total of 20 clean sheets in La Liga is also a club best for a single season.
“I knew I could win the Zamora this year, but it belongs to the club and the team that has worked very well,” ‘Tibu’ told reporters after the clash.
“There have been games in which I haven’t had to do much because of them. We leave here not too happy because of Zaragoza’s relegation, but that’s the way things are.”
Courtois continued: “They’re a great club, it’s a good city with a good atmosphere to play in and a great fan base.”
The Belgium international was then asked to rate Atlético’s season.
“To give it a 10 is too much because you can always do better, but a 9 or 9.5 is about right,” he said.
“We’ve won the Super Cup against a great team like Chelsea, we’ve won the Copa del Rey against Real Madrid and we finished in third place in La Liga.
“It has been a terrific season.”
“Everyone knows what I want for my future. I can only say my decision is to stay, but it’s up to the clubs.” – Thibaut Courtois (COPE)
Arda livens up the evening
Atleti were taking things very slowly, cabrón at La Romareda, with conspiracy theories abounding about the possibility of a fixed game between two Jorge Mendes-controlled outfits.
But Arda’s stunning strike to finally draw first blood with about five minutes left of regulation time ended any such conjectures.
The goal was the former Galatasaray man’s fifth of the season, equalling his output from his inaugural campaign in Madrid.
The ‘Beast’ with a pair
No, not of cojones. We’ve known he’s got plenty of those.
On Saturday, Diego Costa bagged a brace to close out his best season ever, finishing with 20 goals (10 in La Liga) and as the top scorer of our successful Copa del Rey run.
With the departure of Falcao, the ‘Beast of the Manzanares’ is set to begin the next term as Atleti’s de facto star forward.
Why not Costa for the No. 9?
“I’m proud of having played with Radamel Falcao. He’s an excellent player and we have enjoyed him a lot. He’s a great teammate and a great person. He has made the decision of going to Monaco and I wish him a lot of luck in the future and that he may score many more goals.” – Thibaut Courtois
- In only his third appearance (two as a starter) since arriving during the winter transfer window, left-back Emiliano Insúa picked up his first assist as a member of Atlético on our opening goal.
- Koke connected with Costa, statistically speaking his favourite teammate, on our last goal of the campaign for his 13th assist of the season.
- Atlético C forward Dani Aquino made his debut in the Spanish top flight with Atlético on Saturday when he replaced Adrián in the 89th minute. He immediately contributed to the victory after only a minute on the pitch with an assist, his first with his new club. The former Murcia and Real Oviedo player received a lovely pass from Óliver Torres down the left flank before crossing in perfectly for Costa to volley home our second goal on the night. “I’m very happy,” the 22-year-old said after the game. “It has been a very exciting day with great players, with a great coaching staff, and the truth is I’m very happy for having debuted.” Curiously, La Romareda is where Aquino, a once promising young talent with hometown club Murcia, debuted in Primera back in January of 2008.
- Jorge Pulido was handed a rare start, his first in La Liga in the present term. The Atleti academy product had last seen action back in December, away at Viktoria Plzeň in Europa League play. Pulido’s appearance in the fold led to speculation that Cata Díaz, who had been left off the squad altogether the previous weekend following reports of an altercation with fans, remains on Cholo’s bad side.
- Atlético became the first team since 1972/73 to complete an entire season without conceding a penalty in La Liga, Pedro Martin reports.
- That magic moment…when Óliver dribbled past 27 Zaragoza players inside the box and chipped the ball off the crossbar for a miss that was, in retrospect, probably for the best as it would have converted him into a very seductive piece of property ahead of the off-season.