Atlético delivered an impeccable performance in Sunday’s 5-0 obliteration of Rayo Vallecano at the Vicente Calderón.
In their home opener in league play, los Colchoneros were out to prove ‘Cholo Castle’ remains the scariest place to visit in La Liga, haunted by a ‘Beast’ that calls the Rojiblanco fortress home, and protected by the world’s fiercest defence.
Ever since Diego Simeone took over the stadium, opponents have cowered at the sight of its walls, and Atleti supporters, except us here at AtléticoFans, of course, where we stay humble and keep our feet on the ground, have gotten carried away in cocky hyperbole when they describe just how badass their club is.
Coming into the campaign, the biggest area of doubt was how Atleti would fare without their top goalscorer of the last two campaigns, following Falcao’s exit to Monaco. Many expected the team to suffer a significant decline in offensive production.
The jury is still out, but one could perhaps argue that ‘El Tigre’s’ absence contributes to a more collective playing style, now that there isn’t such a demanding, primary focal point up top.
Again, it’s far too early to draw any conclusions, but eight goals in two league games should keep our worries at bay, for now.
Prior to next weekend’s trip to San Sebastián to take on Real Sociedad, our guys get set for Wednesday’s visit to Barcelona, where they hope to upset the Blaugrana in the Supercopa.
To bring the trophy back to the capital with them, they’ll have to improve on their splendid midweek showing in the first leg of the final, which will be no easy task.
But, as the old adage says, “Where there is a Cholo, there is a way.”
“Thank God we only conceded five goals.” – Rayo boss Paco Jémez
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone tallies 150th win as a coach
Argentine tactician Diego Simeone is putting together quite a remarkable coaching career, after not having done so badly for himself as a player.
The 43-year-old bagged his 150th victory as a manager with Sunday’s triumph over Rayo. The milestone was achieved after 294 matches, Pedro Martin reports.
56 of those wins have been in 90 games at the helm of Atleti.
Simeone felt his men’s “aerial game and breaks from the back” were the keys to beating the Vallecas-based outfit.
“We allowed our opponents to bring the ball up and applied pressure, complicating things for them,” he said after the bout.
“There’s no other way we know how to play. This is the rhythm we maintain, and we feel comfortable like that because of the characteristics of our players. I try to have the team play based on that, as opposed to how I would like them to play.”
Cholo isn’t worried about David Villa’s absence from the scoresheet for the second weekend in a row. ‘El Guaje’ scored a wondergoal against his former teammates on Wednesday, but has yet to nab his first league goal of the present term, and failed to capitalise on some very clear opportunities Sunday night.
“Hopefully he can continue the way he’s playing because he’s getting chances and, eventually, he’ll score them,” Simeone said.
“He lives off goals and I like that about him.”
Raúl opens and closes the rout with a brace
In a week in which in his namesake across town, Raúl (González Blanco), was paid a late tribute to at the Bernabéu following an illustrious career in white, Atleti midfielder Raúl García — making his first appearance of the season — did his best to boost his appearances in Google search results by sneaking a pair of strikes past a woeful Cobeño.
“Raúl’s performance makes me happy,” Cholo said of the former Osasuna man’s outing.
“The other day he was out [of the squad] and today he scored two goals. We need players that understand that, first, we are a group, and then, we will become a team.”
Of his decision to replace Koke with García, our most lethal midfielder last year, Simeone explained that Raúl would offer us an advantage in the air. Fittingly, his first goal came from a header.
“The other day I was out of the match selection and it’s not easy, because everyone wants to play,” ‘RG8’ told reporters in the mixed zone.
“There’s a lot of competition and one must learn to accept it.”
The only stain on García’s performance was his lowly pass completion rate of 49%.
“We know it’s a complicated match but we also know that we’ll have our chances. We played well in the first leg and deserved more, but there’s still a game left. We know there will be goals because there always are in those matches and we should believe in ourselves because it will be difficult to defeat them.” – Raúl, on the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday against Barcelona
The Beast can’t be stopped
Diego Costa’s season has gotten off to a roaring start. The ‘Beast of the Manzanares’ directly contributed to three of our goals on Sunday, and already has three goals and an assist to his name in the young campaign.
The Brazilian, overshadowed a bit by the arrival of Villa over the summer, is currently tied with Almería’s Rodri as La Liga’s top scorer.
Much was made about Arda’s perceived disappointment when he was taken off after just an hour of play in Sevilla last weekend.
The Turk had uncharacteristically failed to make much of an impact on the game, and with rumours coming out of his home country suggesting he wants to return to Galatasaray, some concern was creeping in.
All those doubts were wiped away on Sunday though.
Our bearded midfield maestro put in a sublime shift, scoring a lovely goal and providing two others.
Arda now has three assists on the campaign. He had a grand total of four in all competitions last season.
Tiago reappears and adds name to scoresheet
Like Raúl, Tiago made his first appearance of the season against Rayo. The 33-year-old, who replaced Mario in the fold, scored his 11th goal in red and white since having joined the club back in January of 2010.
“Ever since [Simeone’s] arrival, the team shows up for every match,” the former Portugal international said.
“Every encounter is a final. We’re all locked in and we follow the coach regardless of who plays, because we’re always playing at a high level.”
He continued: “I felt really good but the important thing is the team, who came into the game very strongly. We were able to score on the chances we’ve had, we didn’t offer them any and we had the strength to control the match.”
- Atleti skipper Gabi, an underrated set piece specialist, picked up his first assist of the season off of a well-executed corner kick for our opening goal.
- 2012-13 team assist leader Koke, who came on for Gabi at the hour mark, tallied his second assist of the campaign when we completed the manita in the 90th minute.
- Reigning Zamora trophy-holder Thibaut Courtois earned his first clean sheet of the season, one of his easiest shutouts in his career.
- Though the scoresheet didn’t show it, the match ran through the feet of left-back Filipe Luís, who had by far the most touches on the evening for Atleti with 85. His counterpart on the right flank, Juanfran, only touched the ball 51 times.
- Adrián, who replaced Costa in the 66th minute, should have earned an assist when he fed a perfect, leading pass to a wide open Villa that the Spanish national team legend inexplicably sent smashing into the crossbar. It was one of ‘Adri’s’ better nights, but it may not even matter anymore, as there are strong signs suggesting the forward will be sold shortly.
- A clear indication of Rayo’s dreadful effort was that not a single Atlético player was booked.
- Atleti’s Léo Baptistão, who faced off against his former buddies, turns 21 on Monday.
- Choice quotes from Rayo coach Paco Jémez‘ dramatic post-game press conference: “We’re going to spend a couple of days feeling like shit, ashamed and humiliated.” “We’re the smallest team in the league; the shittiest team in the league–that’s us. Once we realise that, we can compete against anyone. We went out onto the pitch thinking that we were up against a group of friends and that’s why we shipped five.” On having removed right-back Gálvez after just half an hour, Jémez explained he did so because he couldn’t “take out [all 11 players]“.