Atlético suffered only their second loss of the present league campaign in Almería on Saturday, but it just so happened to be their second loss in the same week.
Much has and will continue to be made about referee Fernando Teixeira Vitienes’ atrocious officiating on the evening, and rightfully so, but Atleti have overcome adverse or blown calls all season long.
Not on this accursed night, though.
It seemed as if lady luck was on our side, even if Teixeires Vitienes wasn’t, when Almería attacker Aleix Vidal hit both posts in the 76th minute before the ball miraculously rolled back out and into play.
That was the last bit of fuel left in the luck tank for los Rojiblancos, however.
Just moments later, after 80 minutes of mostly aimless wandering about the pitch by Atleti, Almería’s Verza accidentally scored his first non-penalty kick goal in Primera.
Dani Aranzubía, in replacement of an injured Thibaut Courtois between the sticks, would admit he should have done much more to prevent the ball, a wayward cross, from going in.
The former Deportivo goalkeeper was charged with committing a penalty five minutes later and was unjustly sent off.
For the first time in Atlético history, a field player was forced to don goalkeeping gear in league play, with skipper Gabi assuming the role of shotstopper–or, he kind of tried to at least.
Gabi’s clean sheet record lasted all of about 30 seconds–when Verza doubled his account on the evening by easily converting his penalty.
The nutty affair came to a close and Atleti fell to second on the league table, the defeat capping off a woeful week for the men in red and white.
While we’re far from ready to call the situation a crisis, our boys will need to bounce back soon to get out of this mini-funk.
Los Colchoneros have the benefit of playing their next two matches in the comforts of their own home, and a win — by any margin — against Real Madrid on Tuesday will help lift the squad’s spirits ahead of Valladolid’s visit in La Liga next Saturday.
They’ll certainly want to avoid getting mired in a slump before travelling to Milan on the 19th of this month in their return to Champions League action.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone refuses to pin blame on referee
“It was a match in which our opponents played the way they intended to,” Atleti coach Diego Simeone said.
Many expected the Argentine tactician to succumb to a tirade against the officiating, but Simeone kept his cool.
“In the first half, we played better, creating some chances, but football has these things…sometimes you win, sometimes you draw and other times you lose,” he said.
“We don’t look for excuses. We don’t blame it on the referees, nor on the wind, nor on the ball. We lost. Our opponents worked very hard and we congratulate them for that.
“The only way we know how to continue on this line is working hard, and that’s what we’ll do.”
When asked specifically about the ref’s mistakes, ‘Cholo’ responded: “I didn’t watch on television. What I’m most worried about right now is Tiago’s [injury].”
WTF Teixeira Vitienes?
With all due respect to Cholo, Teixeira Vitienes’ incompetence simply cannot be overlooked.
About three years ago, we wrote the following after a 2-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao:
“As whiny as it sounds, there’s no denying that a grave injustice was served against our men by referee Teixeira Vitienes’ harsh red card and penalty on birthday-boy Perea. That absurd decision conditioned the rest of the clash […]”
While the likes of Almería’s Soriano and Barbosa were free to roam the field Wild West style unpoliced, Atleti were denied two clear penalties in the opening half and had one man injured with impunity and another one harshly dismissed.
It’s bewildering really that Almería committed 21 fouls to our 8, yet they saw two yellows while we saw two yellows and one red, and were charged with a penalty.
Real Madrid’s witch hunt of Ayza Gámez this past week resulted in the referee being tossed into the proverbial cooler — a la nevera, as the Spanish say — for a month.
This, because Gámez amended his official report to clarify that he had shown Cristiano Ronaldo red not for his clawing of Gurpegui’s face, but rather, that of Iturraspe’s.
It will be interesting to see if our friend ‘T.V.’ will meet the same fate or, if justice prevails, he has his whistle-holding digits forcibly removed.
Gabi and Tiago sound off
“The team is irritated, but we have to lift our heads up and work harder to end this bad run of lost games,” back-up to the back-up ‘keeper Gabi told reporters in the mixed zone.
“We have to be more united than ever. We’ve been in privileged positions and we have the luck of being here still and we have to fight to end this little slump that’s costing us points as soon as possible.”
The Rojiblanco captain then commented on the controversial decisions.
“Lately, it’s been easy to officiate against us. You must judge for yourselves. All you have to do is look at the images. It already happened to us at the Bernabéu. They’re obvious things that have to stop because we’re up there on our own merits.”
As Tiago limped out of the stadium, he told reporters: “Each time, it gets harder. I don’t know if there’s some confusion. Clear calls aren’t being made.”
- Thibaut Courtois had started and completed 55 consecutive league games until a lower back strain kept him from taking part in goal at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos. The Belgian’s presence, as Saturday’s mishap clearly showed, is critical to our success.
- When Almería’s Hélder Barbosa recklessly launched himself studs-first at the back of Tiago’s leg, Atleti demanded red. At the very least, yellow. Teixeira Vitienes didn’t even call a foul. The result? Tiago suffered a knee sprain, according to Atlético’s official site, and was forced to come off immediately.
- The list of Atleti players on four-yellow cards remained exactly the same as a week ago: Filipe, Miranda, Diego Godín, Arda, Tiago and Costa are all one booking away from automatic suspension.
- Juanfran started at left-back, taking the place of Insua–who himself was minding the position for the injured Filipe Luís. Javi Manquillo started on the right. The setup seemed to have been working well early on, with Atleti creating most of their danger from the flanks. Did Cholo simply give Insua a break ahead of the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal Wednesday, or is it a sort of punishment for the Argentine’s performance in the first leg?