It was bound to happen.
At least, that’s likely what many members of the Rojiblanco faithful kept telling themselves when their beloved Atlético’s bid for a perfect season in La Liga (and a chance to take sole possession of first place) was spoiled by Espanyol on Saturday.
Just because it was inevitable didn’t mean it hurt any less for some of us though.
A cheap cop out would have been to attribute the 1-0 defeat to the so-called FIFA virus because of the number of Atleti players that represented their national teams over the past international break.
Simeone’s men very easily could have won this game had things gone their way–and maybe if Arda and Miranda had started in place of Raúl García and debutant Toby Alderweireld.
But that’s being too harsh on the benchwarmers.
Los Rojiblancos, who won the possession battle on the evening, failed to send a single shot between Kiko Casilla’s sticks, though Koke did hit the post following an excellent pass from soulmate Costa.
An unfortunate mistake by an otherwise rock-solid Thibaut Courtois ended up being the difference between the two sides at the Cornellà-El Prat.
And just like that, our historic win streak was snapped. Fortunately, Barça’s was freshly broken up as well.
Ahead of next weekend’s clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona, Atleti fans might have some soul searching to do.
There’s a chance some of us will find ourselves in quite an unusual predicament: secretly hoping Real Madrid don’t lose on Saturday. A Clásico draw would give us a second opportunity to climb to the top of the league standings.
Yuck! Right? Well…best start getting used to it.
But first, our men head out to Vienna on Tuesday, where they will take on local outfit Austria Wien in our third Champions League match.
Ah…the Champions, now that’s something we can get used to.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone’s 100th match as Atleti coach marred by loss
“It was a gridlocked and tough game,” Atleti boss Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone said.
“The first half saw us struggle to get our play going, though defensively we didn’t suffer. We had a chance from Koke that hit the post and another one by Diego Costa that he just narrowly missed.”
The 43-year-old, who featured on the Atlético coaching bench for the 100th time, continued:
“Their goal appeared in the second half and, from there on out, with several changes we went in search of the equaliser that never arrived.
“Losing is part of the game.”
Costa remains Pichichi but suffers injury
Soon-to-maybe-be Spain international Diego Costa held on to his lead at the top of the goalscoring chart of La Liga in spite of failing to find the back of the net against los Periquitos.
A pair of no-names — some Messy(?) dude and a Christian something or other — who have eight goals each, continue to trail the ‘Beast of the Manzanares’, who has struck for 10 in the present league term.
Rojiblanco land was under red alert on Sunday, when Costa was spotted in crutches. The Brazilian completed Saturday night’s clash, but apparently sustained a blow to his ankle.
According to Spanish paper AS, the injury is not too severe and the 25-year-old will travel to Austria on Monday for his Champions League debut.
Cholo comes to ‘El Guaje’s’ defense
“[Villa’s play] was among the best things of the first half,” Cholo blatantly fibbed in his post-game press conference.
Villa’s play was among the worst things of the first half.
The fact of the matter is, David Villa’s presence was of no consequence.
The oft-heard joke about a team playing with one man less because of a severely underperforming player was supported by the numbers when it came to ‘El Guaje’.
The Asturian attacker didn’t take a single shot and had by far the least amount of touches by any of our field players.
His frustration was manifested by a verbal and physical altercation he got into with several Espanyol players that cost him a yellow card.
Villa needs a goal soon to boost his confidence and alleviate some of the pressure on Costa to carry the load on offense.
- Toby Alderweireld made his first appearance in red and white, appearing in the starting line-up against Espanyol in replacement of the ailing Miranda. The Belgian defender was heavily involved in the action, especially when Cholo went all-out on the attack bringing on Arda, Adrián and Cebolla and removing Raúl, Gabi and Mario. Alderweireld made 12 clearances, blocked 2 shots and was third on the squad in total touches (62). Many assigned Toby partial blame for the goal though, as the former Ajax man let Sergio García slip past him–leading to countryman Courtois’ blunder.
- Cholo handed plane tickets to Vienna to the following 22 players: Courtois, David Gil, Godín, Filipe Luís, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda (back from injury), Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cebolla, Gabi, Guilavogui, Óliver, Adrián, Villa, Costa.
- Despite the defeat to Espanyol, Simeone has the best record after 100 games of any coach in Atleti history (64 wins, 19 draws, 17 losses).
- Believe it or not, Atleti had a better record last season after nine league matches (8 wins, 1 draw).