While it was by no means a dominant performance, Atlético hung on to defeat Osasuna 2-1 at the Vicente Calderón Tuesday night, successfully remaining flawless in La Liga ahead of Saturday’s return to the Bernabéu.
Although the end result was the same, the path to the three points against los Rojillos was markedly different from Atleti’s win at Valladolid this past Saturday.
Diego Simeone’s charges waited until after the break to show up to the proceedings in Pucela, finally assuming control in an authoritative second half.
Against Osasuna though, los Rojiblancos — with five changes to the line-up — came out guns blazing and leading 2-0 after only 25 minutes of play.
A blowout seemed to be on the cards, but Osasuna pluckily fought back to within one just before the end of the first half.
The Basque outfit refused to lie down in the final 45 minutes, employing Atleti’s tried-and-true technique of ceding possession and exploiting on the counter, thereby frustrating the home side’s game plan.
Atlético very uncharacteristically ended up with 70% possession, the second time in a row the squad has retained the ball longer than their foes.
But, in the end, Javi Gracia’s plot was foiled as his men failed to nab the equaliser, handing Atleti all three points to make it a perfect 18 of 18.
Atop the league table along with Barcelona, los Colchoneros will begin preparations for the season’s first Madrid Derby, and then it’s off to Porto for our second Champions League clash on Tuesday.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone victorious in 300th game as a coach
Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone secured his 155th triumph in his 300th match on the coaching bench.
“This is what happens in games that aren’t closed out on the scoreboard,” the player-turned-manager said in his post-game press conference.
“A 2-1 [scoreline] always offers possibilities. We had a chance to seal the match in the first half. Up until the 33rd minute, we had done things really well.
“Their goal arrived and we lost our footing.”
‘Cholo’ continued: “The players resolved it well. These experiences are good because they will come about throughout the course of the campaign.”
Asked if his squad may have taken their feet off the gas pedal looking towards the upcoming bout against los Blancos, Simeone responded: “No. It was because we couldn’t find the right paths. Osasuna defended well.”
“The fans were great because they realised that the game got a little tougher, because we couldn’t close it out. They knew the team needed their support, strength and energy, and the truth is it was felt from the stands. That makes us happy because there’s a communion, and that’s good because it helps you realise, while you’re playing, that they want you to work harder.” – Simeone, on the Atleti faithful in attendance Tuesday night
While a lot of the national spotlight in Spain is aimed at compatriot Neymar, who found the back of the net for the first time in Primera División play on Tuesday, Diego Costa is lighting it up in La Liga with seven goals to his name after hitting Osasuna for two.
The pair of strikes were then followed up by a pair of cheeks (NSFW).
Costa, who is now all knotted up with Messi in the race for the Pichichi trophy, equaled former Atleti striker Falcao’s output after the first six games of the 2012/13 season.
“[His limit] is where he wants it to be,” said Simeone of his ‘Beast’.
“He’s a youngster. He’s growing and he’s earned everything he’s gained. There’s room for improvement. Hopefully he wants to [improve].
“He’s ambitious and intelligent.”
In the previous edition of our match recap, we pointed out that Koke is an ever-present ingredient of these “aftermaths”.
It should come as no surprise to see the ‘Resurrector’ here again then, right?
With his assist Tuesday night, Koke moved into a tie for the league lead in that department with Cesc Fàbregas–each contributing five to their respective teams.
The Atleti midfielder spent much of the match playing behind Costa in the hole, or as the Spanish say, as a media punta.
But it was from out wide that he found his favourite target, delivering a cross spot on to the ‘Beast’ for our second goal.
“They understand each other just by looking at each other,” Cholo said about the dynamite partnership.
“When Koke receives the ball, Costa is already getting ready. They read each other. They know each other to perfection, and hopefully they remain in sync for a long time.”
Juanfran to Manquillo (maybe): “Now you wait just a second young man”
First-string Atleti fullback Juanfran returned to his place in the starting line-up kept warm by Javi Manquillo last weekend.
Facing his former club, the right-back improved on his somewhat low-key start to the season, possibly motivated by the recent challenge presented by Manquillo’s strong showing.
Juanfran made an incredible, sliding effort to keep the ball in play just before assisting Costa for our opening strike.
“We’re very happy about the victory,” the 29-year-old said afterwards.
“It was a hard-fought, deserved win against a team that has been improving in recent weeks. We’re undefeated and will head into the Bernabéu in great form.”
He continued: “We’ll go into the [derby] with a lot of desire. The last time we were there, we won, so we will go all out. It’s a very important match for our fans and for us.”
Insúa solid in rare start
This time, it was Filipe Luís’ turn to sit one out. Cholo’s lone countryman on the squad, Emiliano Insúa, confirmed his existence by appearing in the fold in Filipe’s stead.
The Argentine held up admirably well despite his very sporadic outings since arriving in the previous campaign’s winter transfer window from Sporting Lisbon; in fact, it was only his fourth appearance in an Atleti jersey — third as a starter — and first of the present term.
The 24-year-old was the third-most involved player with regard to touch count, and threatened to score when he unleashed a powerful, long-distance blast in the second half that forced Osasuna’s Andrés Fernández to get down low for the save.
“It was an intense match,” Insúa told reporters in the Calderón’s mixed zone.
“It was one of those that may be referred to as ‘easy’, but it had to have been won to render everything we’ve done before important.
“We were able to pick up the three points, which is what we were after. It was a complicated match, but we’ve enjoyed it a lot.”
He continued, perhaps in disbelief that he wasn’t talking to his boots: “We suffered more than we expected to today, but the truth is we’re doing really well.
“We’re going to enjoy this victory, rest and, starting with the next practice, we’ll look to the forthcoming game.”
On the star of the night, Emiliano said: “The truth is Diego’s going through a remarkable moment. He’s a very important player for us and I hope the future brings him the best with regard to national teams.
“He’ll make the decision as to which one to choose [between Spain and Brazil].”
- Mario Suárez had an injury scare minutes before the first half came to a close and was forced to come off at the break. The Spain international, replaced by Gabi, was clutching his knee in pain, but the early reports in the Spanish media suggest it was only a bruise and he could be fit in time for our next game.
- Léo Baptistão earned the nod against Osasuna, while David Villa was rested. The Brazilian failed to make much of an impact on the evening — he was the least involved Atleti field player in the first 45 minutes — and Cholo opted to replace him with Villa with almost half an hour to spare. The Spaniard didn’t fare that much better though. We can expect ‘El Guaje’ to reclaim his spot in the starting line-up for Saturday’s derby.
- Atleti’s Frente ultras unveiled a chant in Miranda’s name that they sang for over 10 minutes at one point. It went a little something like this: “Miranda, alé alé alé, Miranda, alé alé, alé, Miranda alé alé alé alé, alé, alé“.
- During his post-game press conference, Simeone was asked why summer signing Josuha Guilavogui has not made his debut yet. Cholo’s response? “We have players like Mario, Gabi and Tiago that have been playing at an incredible level for over a year and a half, and have given me three titles and the league lead right now. We have high expectations of Guilavogui, but he needs a period of adaptation.“
- For the first time in Primera División history, two clubs have started the season off with six wins. (COPE)
- Another victory against Real on Saturday would not only be glorious, but it would give Atleti their best start ever in La Liga. The club had previously won their first six games in the 1964/65 and 1991/92 seasons.