After over an hour of mostly dispirited play by Atlético in Vigo, the men in and red and white sparked back to life to abruptly terminate their foes 2-0.
The game against Celta started off eerily similar to Atleti’s previous two trips in league play–the squad looked all too comfortable letting their opponents dictate play while hardly offering much of a threat in attack of their own.
And then suddenly, David Villa, like a psychopath who had been keeping his murderous instincts in check, snapped.
In a matter of moments, the decorated veteran took matters into his own hands, scoring two goals in quick succession.
Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone, showing mercy on our counterparts, removed Villa from the field of play before he could be labelled a serial killer and strike for a third time–as the traditional definition of the term requires.
Once a killer, always a killer.
With the triumph, a crucial one not only because of the high stakes nature of each affair in our fight for the title, but also given the bevy of suspensions we were dealing with, Atleti temporarily moved into first place in La Liga.
Barcelona had suffered surprise defeat in Valladolid — any Barça loss could reasonably be deemed a surprise — so we surpassed them on the table.
27 games into the season and more points than Barcelona?
Quite the feat indeed!
Real Madrid take on Levante at the Santiago Bernabéu, and barring an unforeseen turn of events, we’ll be bumped back down to second shortly.
The victory at Balaídos, coupled with our excellent showing in the Madrid Derby, will do a world of good ahead of our Champions League clash on Tuesday versus AC Milan.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone pleased with Diego’s performance and the work of his subs
“We were up against opponents that play well, that put together great link-ups in attack,” Simeone said after the game.
“They contained themselves well in the first half, when they were determined to take control of the encounter.
“We went from less to more, and in the second half we ended up playing a great match.”
‘Cholo’ was thrilled with “Diego’s growth, the goal scoring return of Villa, and the entries of Sosa and [Cebolla] Rodríguez,” explaining that “this is positive for the group ahead of a final stage of the season that will be really nice.”
Big time Villa
“He lives off goals,” Simeone said of star of the night David Villa, who had taken the place of the suspended Diego Costa up top.
“He’s a specialist in that department. He has such precision and decisiveness, which has defined his career. He’s a very important player for us, whom we need because of his goals and experience.
“He’s of the few players we have that are accustomed to fighting to be in this spot Sunday-after-Sunday.”
Amazingly, no one in La Liga has scored more opening goals than ‘El Guaje’ this season (7, as OPTA Sports pointed out after he drew first blood on Saturday).
The former Barcelona man, who hadn’t scored in over a month and was seemingly losing more and more relevance, has a not too shabby goal total of 15 in his first year at Atleti in all competitions (13 goals in La Liga).
He has 6 more goals in league play than the slightly more expensive Neymar.
“I’m happy because it was a tough match at a tough pitch and against opponents that play good football and know what they want,” the 32-year-old hitman said in the mixed zone.
“We’ll go to bed as the leaders and we’re very happy about the game played by the whole team.”
He continued: “I’m happy to help the team with goals and must continue working hard.”
The end of the ‘Diego curse’
For the first time since Diego’s return to the club during the winter transfer window, he has appeared in the starting line-up of a victory.
In fact, it’s the first time we’ve scored with the Brazilian featuring from the beginning of a bout this season.
While there’s certainly still room to improve, Diego’s outing was very promising.
“I’m feeling very good,” he said following the match.
“Each time, I’m getting more minutes. There’s certain things you can only get from playing matches. In training, I feel very good; in the games, too.
“I think I’m heading in the right direction.”
With regard to Costa’s absence, Diego opined: “His quality is irrefutable. If we win with or without him, we’re still aware of his importance. But, when he’s not here, we have to find other solutions.
“We have a team with a lot of quality, with spectacular players. Today, for example, Villa was excellent.”
Cholo fave Sosa delivers strong shift
There’s no question that Cholo’s countryman José Sosa is well-regarded by the Atleti boss.
Simeone has, uncharacteristically, deployed him freely since his arrival while other newcomers have been forced to remain very patient for long spells riding the bench.
‘El Principito’ rewarded his compatriot’s blind faith in him with a very solid performance, notching his second assist of the campaign when he delivered an excellent pass to Villa for our second goal after replacing Koke at the hour mark.
“I got here at the beginning of the year and it’s tough to show up to a team when everything is going right and they have been getting a lot of wins in recent years,” Sosa told reporters.
“It’s a team that’s doing well and sometimes there’s no place for you to play because there’s so much competition. I’m here to contribute and I have to take advantage of the minutes I am given to play.
“At first, I was supposed to come in and play on the left, but I ended up staying on the right to shake things up and got an assist and, luckily, I was able to help.”
- Pedro Martin of COPE revealed that Thibaut Courtois, 21 years and 301 days old, became the third youngest Atleti player to reach 100 games in Primera División action, behind Sergio Agüero (20 years and 278 days old) and Fernando Torres (21 years and 56 days old). The Belgian wonderkeeper celebrated achieving the century mark by tallying his 19th shutout in the present term (13th in La Liga). Courtois displayed his tremendous goalkeeping instincts in the first half, closing in on what could have been a dangerous one-on-one situation before it even got started and making a pair of fine saves.
- Miranda and Mario each saw their fifth yellow card and will serve one-match bans next weekend when we host Espanyol. Costa, Arda and Godín will be available, however, after they served suspensions against Celta.
- Filipe Luís and Tiago are our only players left on four yellows.
- Speaking of the Portuguese midfielder, Tiago was back in training on Sunday having recovered from the injury that has kept him sidelined for six games since February 8th.