Despite their clear superiority for most of the afternoon, Atlético struggled to dispose of Celta Vigo at the Vicente Calderón on Sunday.
Ultimately, a Diego Costa brace was enough to extend the club’s record league start to eight straight wins.
Celta goalkeeper Yoel made 10 saves to prevent a bloodbath and, together with Nolito, kept his team alive until the very end of the proceedings.
Los Colchoneros, who were at their most merciful, squandered countless chances but still managed to withstand their Galician foes’ late onslaught for the triumph.
The victory came at the expense of David Villa and Gabi though, both hobbling off with injuries–our captain’s knock apparently a more severe one.
Normally, ahead of an international break, this space would be reserved for griping; but, the host of injuries to key players in recent days has us singing a different tune this time.
The squad could surely use the rest to recover following an intensely demanding past three weeks.
Our men will be looking to retain their spot at the top of the table when they return to action on the 19th to square off against Espanyol in Barcelona.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone pleased with squad’s first half performance
For the second time in Atleti history, the club have won eight straight matches in league play.
Both of those streaks have come during Diego Simeone’s magnificent tenure as an Atleti manager.
A win at the Cornellà-El Prat in about a fortnight will set an Atlético record in consecutive Primera victories.
“Today, the team put together one of the best first halves since we got here,” Simeone said after the clash.
“It was a complete first half in which the only thing that was missing was scoring. Dominance throughout the field, dominance in goalscoring chances, defensive tension and in the pressure we applied in our opponents’ half.”
He continued, praising his charges and highlighting opposing goalie Yoel’s strong performance: “I leave very happy with that first half in which the game could have been resolved. Yoel had a great showing, that’s why the match was never closed out.
“It was all credit to Celta, who forced us to retreat and we couldn’t string together that connection that we had for the majority of the game. In the last 15 to 20 minutes, Celta were much more involved offensively. They were much looser and more uninhibited. That complicated things for us because, individually, they have very good players in one-on-one situations and they were able to inflict some damage.
“The match had been played so well by us earlier, and in the final minutes we were overwhelmed a bit because our opponents also know how to play and it’s normal they made us retreat so much.”
‘Cholo’ proceeded to offer a detailed assessment of his men’s outing.
“The team’s play was very continuous, there weren’t any let ups,” he said.
“It was a continuous attack, continuous play, through the right flank, the left flank, through the centre…the team had several attacking options. We did that well. We defended well, which is hard to do when you have so much space at the back.”
Costa celebrates 25th birthday as Pichichi of La Liga
“Once again, he had a great performance,” Simeone said of star striker Diego Costa, who turns 25 on Monday.
“In this past almost year and a half he has grown tremendously since his return from Rayo. He has earned it because he has worked for it. He is constantly improving and that makes us happy for him.
“I believe he still has a lot of room for improvement and we hope to be able to benefit from it.”
The Brazilian’s Sunday had actually gotten off to a rough start.
In spite of finding himself in position to score on several occasions early on in the first half — including off of a penalty — the big man was repeatedly denied by Celta goalkeeper Yoel.
His exasperation was most evident after he missed his spot kick in the 26th minute–he had made his last five and Atleti had converted their previous 13. The ‘Beast of the Manzanares’ rattled the core of the Earth when he punched the ground in frustration–jolting Colchoneros in the Americas awake in the wee hours of the morning on that side of the world.
Costa was able to redeem himself shortly thereafter though, when he, comically, stole a goal from Diego Godín off a pass into the goalie box by Filipe Luís.
He later out-muscled Fontás after receiving a ball from Gabi and slotted in his second.
The forward now has 10 goals on the campaign and not only leads Spain, but all of Europe. He has more goals than Falcao, who has seven with Monaco and has twice as many goals as Granada have as a whole team.
The last time a Primera División striker scored in seven of the first eight games in a season was in 1987, when former Colchonero-turncoat Hugo Sánchez did so with Real.
Impressed yet? No?
The Beast’s start is the best by a Rojiblanco attacker in 60 years! Only two other strikers have scored more after a season’s first eight games in red and white: Pruden, who bagged 12 in 1940-41, and Escudero, who struck for 11 in the 1952-53 term.
Costa only needs one more goal to break his career best single-season mark in Primera.
“What’s important is that we won, not who scored the [first] goal,” the man of the hour said regarding the confusion about our opening strike.
“I’m very happy.”
On his failed spot kick, Costa said: “I don’t like to miss penalties. It’s normal that I was disappointed. If I had another chance I would have taken it and I would have scored it.”
He continued: “The good thing is that I had the opportunity to score another two goals.”
Diego offered some kind words for his nemesis on the day.
“Yoel played an incredible match,” he admitted.
Finally, on the hottest topic in Spain at the moment — that of his national team decision between Brazil and Spain — Costa said: “I’ve played my whole career here [in Spain] regardless of having been born in Brazil. Spain has given me everything and if I have to play for la Selección I will do so in the best way possible.”
“Diego Costa is the soul of Atleti” -Mario Suárez
Once again, Gabi quietly put together a fantastic performance–nabbing his fourth assist on the season (second in La Liga action) and ending the clash with the most touches despite sustaining an ugly knee injury the club later categorised as a grade II sprain.
This is much better news than expected, and the veteran midfielder should only be sidelined for about two to three weeks.
David Villa was also forced to come off early. Cholo explained that ‘El Guaje’ experienced “pain in his ankle” and that “he should recover shortly and will be fine”.
The Spain international, who missed an absolute sitter moments before being taken out, will not be travelling with his national team this week.
“I would’ve traded the victory to prevent Gabi’s injury. We hope that it’s nothing major. We’re sad because he’s a very important player for us, our captain. We’re happy about the win but, at the same time, sad. I repeat, I would’ve traded the win in order for Gabi to be okay.” – Juanfran
- After winning the penalty Atleti failed to capitalise on, Filipe Luís delivered a square ball into a Diego sandwich. Godín and Costa both simultaneously pounced on the left back’s pass, but it was the Beast who was credited with the opening goal. Filipe picked up, surprisingly, only his first assist of the season.
- Summer signing Josuha Guilavogui finally debuted, coming on in the 89th minute to replace Gabi. He touched the ball once.
- UPDATE: Koke makes it to the Aftermath after all. As our frequent guest and forum member Jimbo With the Dancing Shoes (birth name) points out in the comments, our ‘Georgie Resurrection’ momentarily debuted as team captain when Gabi left the pitch.
- Atleti surpassed Athletic Bilbao on the all-time points rankings in La Liga with Sunday’s victory, the club totaled 3,132. Los Rojiblancos now sit in fourth behind Valencia, who have 3,183 points. UPDATE: See Ahmad’s explanation below in the comments section in which he explains why Atleti are, in fact, the third best team in the league’s history.
- “When the players travel with their national teams, it’s fantastic. I had the opportunity to do so. I know how important and beautiful it is, especially when you’re close to qualifying for an upcoming World Cup. They are going to compete in very decisive games for the future of their selections and, obviously, that is very good for them.” – Simeone, on his squad’s internationals