It was always going to be a tall order to come out of the Madrigal with the three points on Sunday.
Without several key starters and visiting one of the league’s top clubs, Atlético were lucky to even come away with anything at all against a very strong Villarreal side.
Given the circumstances and the opponent, a 1-1 draw is by no means a huge disappointment. But, because of the way the encounter began for Atleti, the end result probably didn’t produce many high-fives among the Rojiblanco faithful.
Atleti were woefully inaccurate with their passing, and only managed one shot on target. Diego Costa, very uncharacteristically, hardly factored at all on the evening and was even taken out with seven minutes left on the clock. It was a commendable effort nonetheless by our star striker, who was battling illness to take part in the game.
For all the talk about the heated rivalry between the two sides ahead of the fixture, it was interesting that they both lent each other a helping hand–splitting the spoils by scoring goals in their own nets.
Following the game, Barcelona proceeded to rub a little salt in our wounds with an easy drubbing of Betis in Sevilla.
It’s okay to get upset though. It’s good to be reminded of why we can’t take any of our wins for granted.
After the events of the match day, we now trail Barça by three, the same amount by which we lead third-place Real Madrid.
Our opponents, Villarreal, remain in fourth with a full 10 points less than us.
The World Cup playoffs, which will include our trio of Uruguayans–fighting for a spot in the tournament against Jordan, will interrupt La Liga next weekend.
Atleti’s next match won’t be for close to two weeks, when we host Getafe for a derby of sorts.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone commended his men in spite of tie
“We lacked creativity in this game, not ambition, because our opponents played very well,” Diego Simeone said after the draw.
“Villarreal held onto the ball and backed us into our own goal. From a creative standpoint, we couldn’t go on the attack because we lacked strength.
“The players deserve a 10.”
He continued: “It’s an important point against a direct rival. I can only congratulate the players for the effort they made on the pitch.”
“We faced off against opponents that are experiencing a great moment and that made things very difficult for us. We made a great effort defensively, but we couldn’t go out on the attack like we would’ve wanted to. We’ve surely been able to in other games, but not in this one.”
Tiago satisfied with the point
Veteran Atleti midfielder Tiago, who appeared in his fifth straight game and made his third consecutive start, wasn’t displeased with the final score.
“Without a doubt it’s one more point in our fight, against a Villarreal that played really well with the ball,” the Portuguese said.
“We came into the game strongly, were able to score a goal at the beginning, but Villarreal equalised. The tying goal was a result of Villarreal’s efforts. They put us in a tough situation, forcing us to play more deeply.
“The tie isn’t a bad thing,” the 32-year-old concluded.
- Diego Costa had been neck-and-neck with Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi standings as the league’s top goalscorer, both entering the weekend with 13 apiece. But the Portuguese’s hat trick and the Brazilian-born Spaniard’s failure to find the back of the net created some real separation between the two, with Cristiano now at 16 and leading Costa by 3. It had been reported that the ‘Beast’ would fight through illness to be able to take part in this clash, which was his 100th as a member of Atleti.
- Turkish wonder Arda Turan returned from his long injury layoff, replacing Raúl García in the 61st minute.
- Gabi’s yellow card on Sunday takes our captain up to four bookings on the season, one away from automatic suspension.
- Juanfran moved into a tie with former Rojiblanco defender Luis Amaranto Perea in the dubious own goals category with Atleti. Sunday’s accidental equaliser was the former Osasuna man’s third in red and white. While Juanfran ultimately pushed the ball past Courtois, Tiago and Godín replacement Toby Alderweireld perhaps should’ve done more to prevent Villarreal from scoring. Toby will get most of the blame, but to pin it all on the Belgian wouldn’t be fair.