They say winning games when you don’t play well is the mark of a true champion, and that can certainly be said about Atlético Madrid’s 2-1 win against Granada last night.
On a far from ideal playing surface at Los Cármenes, where passes went astray, attacks repeatedly broke down and several balls were lost, Diego Simeone’s team still managed to grind out three points and move back within a point of Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
Once again, Diego Costa was on the scoresheet, he and David Villa scoring penalties in either half to gloss over a largely forgettable encounter in which Granada reduced the arrears with a late Ighalo header after Filipe had been sent off.
With Arda Turan still on the sidelines, ‘Cholo’ decided to go out with all guns blazing in attack, handing Adrián his first start of the season alongside the aforementioned duo.
However, his three-striker experiment didn’t quite go to plan, and following the Asturian striker’s withdrawal in the second half, the game opened up and Atleti began to pose more threat on the break with Raúl García on instead.
Granada fans will feel that the two spot-kicks awarded against their side were a little harsh (as manager Lucas Alcaraz will testify), but on the balance of play, the result was just about fair despite a spirited effort.
The win was our fifth already away from home in the current domestic season, and will boost confidence after losing our first on the road since February last time out at Espanyol.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone’s tactical gamble pays off
“I feel great joy for the effort of the players,” beamed the 43-year-old. “We are not normally a team who have a lot of possession, but those are just numbers. I believe in making chances to score goals, which is what matters and what counts. We had many better opportunities to win the match.”
He continued: “I am pleased with the impression the team gave me, that they know how to struggle when they have to and still manage to win. We may have to struggle a lot to stay in the position we are at the moment.”
The Argentine head coach was grilled about his decision to play three strikers, but praised each of them individually in his post-match press conference.
“I thought it was a great gesture from Costa to let Villa take the second penalty, he had a great game. Adrián was also very good, more or less. He provided what we needed to win the game, although it was difficult because we failed a lot with the final passes.”
Gabi leads by example once more
Scrappy matches are what our midfield often specialise in, and although it wasn’t pretty, Gabi in particular dug in and put in a good shift. The captain provided the pass the set-up the first penalty, cleverly lofting the ball over the top to find Villa.
“Los Cármenes is one of the most difficult grounds in the league,” he said after the final whistle. “It’s a very complicated place to get a result. It was a tough game but the team has managed to pull through thanks to our hard work.”
When asked about Diego Costa’s decision to let Villa take the second penalty, the midfielder commended his teammate and compatriot, calling his attitude ‘unbeatable’.
“This shows that the most important thing here is the group. Here, everything is done for the good of the team. Diego showed confidence in David, and we’ve been really pleased with his attitude throughout the year.
“Costa is a winner, he has a lot of character and will convey that to the Spanish national team. I hope he gives a lot more joy to everyone.”
Miranda first half effort chalked off, heaps more praise on Costa
It’s rare to see a La Liga game where there isn’t a contentious decision to dwell on in the ensuing days, and although the debate will rumble on about the two penalties, one decision the officials did get right was not to allow Miranda’s first half headed goal, correctly ruled out for offside.
However, there is only one topic that matters right now, and that concerns our man up top.
“Diego has not changed, he is still scoring goals and proving to be a great player,” said Miranda.
“It is very important to win away from home, and when it comes down to it, these three points that we took in Granada as the three points we got against Real Madrid”.
The Brazilian centre-half also cleared up confusion regarding a melee at the end of the game, this time involving Costa and Iturra. However, there was little to speak about.
“Nothing happened, they are things that happen at the end of every game,” he said.
- Villa’s strike was his first ever against Granada, meaning he has now scored against every team currently in La Liga bar Elche, whom he has yet to play. The Ilicitanos host ‘El Guaje’ and Atleti later this month.
- The goal was also Villa’s first from the spot at club level since September 2010, and takes his league total this season to a respectable 5 from 11.
- Andalusia is becoming a happy hunting ground for the red and whites, who have now gone 15 matches without defeat in away matches against Granada, Betis, Málaga and Sevilla.
- Diego Costa, in particular, seems to like the southern province, and is now just the second player in history to have scored in 9 of the first 11 matches of the season (first since César for Barcelona in 1950).
- Dismissal late on will mean a suspension for Filipe Luís, but not against Athletic this Sunday. Due to LFP rules, he will have to miss next week’s trip to Villarreal instead. It was his second red card of the season.
- The club announced Friday morning that Diego Godín has put pen to paper on a new deal, one that keeps him at the Calderón until 2018. The Uruguayan described Atleti as: “my home”.