So much for a crisis.
It took all of four minutes on Saturday for Atlético to puncture a pair of mortal wounds into Valladolid at the Vicente Calderón.
Los Rojiblancos then sat back and watched as their opponents bled out for most of the evening before delivering the final death blow–thereby snapping an ugly streak of three goalless losses.
In spite of the critically important 3-0 victory over the Pucela, one can’t help but feel that perhaps Atleti could’ve done a little more damage.
With the quest for the league crown a three-horse race between Diego Simeone’s band of upstarts and Spain’s privileged class — Real Madrid and Barcelona — a higher goal differential may come in handy when it’s all said and done.
Head-to-head records are the primary tiebreaker though.
It’s possible that Atlético took their foot off the gas — letting their visitors hold onto the ball for large swaths of the game — in order to avoid any injuries ahead of their upcoming trip to the San Siro on Wednesday.
Atleti players have been dropping like flies lately, so the approach may prove wise in the end.
With the three points, we momentarily staked our claim to the Primera División’s top spot once again–that was, until Barcelona absolutely annihilated Rayo 6-0 at the Camp Nou hours later.
Let’s hope that at least a Cristiano-less Real Madrid will stumble in Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez on Sunday.
Our midweek Champions League quest to Italy will be followed up by a trip to Pamplona to take on Osasuna on Sunday the 23rd.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone pleased with his squad’s management of the game
“We began the match with so much intensity, with our lines very close together, with good pressure on lost balls and with a great attacking ability in search of the win,” ‘El Cholo’ told media outlets stationed within the Calderón’s press room.
“The plays that opened up the game came about immediately, and that contributed to the match slowing down a bit, to my liking. The second half was managed in a better way, and we settled into a very lovely situation–which is, having 60 points in the Spanish league.”
He continued: “What I liked most was the intensity with which the team came out.”
Some of Simeone’s men have been returning to action after recovering from their respective knocks.
“It makes us happy that Mario, little-by-little, is recovering,” he said.
“He went from less to more, and that’s good. David [Villa] came in for 20 minutes, which is only a little bit of time, but he was able to move around.
“The good thing is that they’re all there competing, and we only have Filipe and Manquillo out,” he said, forgetting to mention Tiago and the Portuguese midfielder’s expected two-month stint on the sidelines.
“Filipe could be available for Osasuna, we’ll see.”
Raúl adds goal and assist to his account, reportedly agrees to extension through 2018
Raúl García continues to marvel. The Pamplona-born attacker, who is known for delivering the goods so long as his name appears in Cholo’s starting line-up (‘He Starts, He Scores!’), notched a goal and an assist within the first five minutes of Saturday’s proceedings.
The long-time Colchonero scapegoat has, against all the odds, firmly established himself as a club icon–surpassing David Villa’s overall goal total (13) on the campaign by picking up his 14th overall and 7th in La Liga.
On top of his impressive goal tally, the 27-year-old now has 5 assists in all competitions in the present term.
Raúl’s wonderful strike broke a streak of 89 Atlético goals scored inside the box, Pedro Martin of COPE pointed out.
According to Radio MARCA, García could be putting pen to paper on a contract extension as soon as Sunday, which would keep him tied to ‘Cholo Castle’ through 2018.
His current deal expires in 2015.
Costa now one goal shy of Cristiano
Diego Costa delightfully chipped Valladolid ‘keeper Diego Mariño after receiving a fantastic pass from Raúl in the fourth minute to bag his 21st goal in league play (26th overall).
Costa closed in on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Liga-leading total of 22, and given the Real striker’s suspension, he’ll have a chance to catch up to him next weekend in the race for the Pichichi trophy.
“There was no crisis,” the ‘Beast of the Manzanares’ told reporters afterwards.
“People doubted after the three losses but, those of us inside the dressing room didn’t.”
As to his chances of picking up the accolade for highest scorer in Primera, Costa said: “Both Cristiano and Messi will fight for it. My only plan is to try to score goals and help the team.”
Godín celebrates birthday and 200th match in Primera with a goal
At a club where success is virtually guaranteed if you go by the name of Diego, Diego Godín is no exception.
The Uruguayan central defender capped off the night by scoring our third goal in the 74th minute–out-jumping Stefan Mitrović following a corner by one of his many namesakes, Diego Ribas.
Godín now has five goals in the present term, his best single-season total since arriving in Spain for the 2007-08 campaign.
The Uruguay international surprisingly led the squad with three shots on target for this clash. A fourth shot, this one a wayward one, came about after the 28-year-old had bombed forward like a legitimate striker!
Does Godín get enough recognition for all his contributions, both, defensively and offensively at Atleti?
Who wants to lead the fan club?
- Atleti’s opening strike was the result of a flawlessly executed free kick play straight from Cholo’s chalkboard, which earned Gabi his 10th assist of the season– a total amounting to more than our Capi’s previous two seasons combined (2012-13: 4; 2011-12: 5).
- Diego, as had been widely reported during the week, was given a break at the start of the encounter. The Brazilian eventually replaced Raúl García in the 64th minute, and later went on to bag his first assist since his previous stint in red and white by delivering the corner headed home by Godín. It was his 10th overall assist with Atleti. “We won the Europa League with Diego and had an extraordinary second half [of the season]. But now, what happens is that there is a very competitive team. Raúl scored, Villa’s here now that he has returned, then there’s Koke, a regular, and Arda. This is good because of the competition between them, as it gives us more chances and more characteristics to compensate for different ways of attacking. His arrival is very good to help the team remain being a team,” Simeone said.
- Thibaut Courtois easily added his 17th clean sheet of the term to his collection (12th in La Liga), without recording a save. The Belgian’s goals against average remains a league low 0.61, and while his phenomenal goalkeeping abilities are undeniable, he is heavily aided by his defence. Atleti’s back line give up the least amount of shots on goal (57 total).
- Given that Atlético were shown no bookings on Saturday, for a third straight weekend their players on four-yellow cards are: Filipe, Miranda, Diego Godín, Arda, Tiago and Costa.