The red and white aftermath: Match Day 29

Atleti top of La Liga with 9 matches remaining after road win at Betis

Gabi blasts Atleti into the lead  (Reuters)

Gabi blasts Atleti into the lead
(Reuters)

While the rest of the universe was focused on El Clásico, Atlético had their sights set on first place.

Atleti supporters suffered through the endless Barcelona and Real Madrid fodder all week long, but, in the end, they were rewarded handsomely.

With their 2-0 victory on the road at Betis — their third straight shutout and 10th win away from home in La Liga — los Rojiblancos found themselves at the pinnacle of the Primera División.

The match got underway under somber circumstances, with a minute of silence being held prior to kick-off in honour of Spain’s first post-Franco prime minister, Adolfo Suárez, who passed away in Madrid on Sunday.

Things got heated fairly quickly however, with both sides matching each other in intensity and combativeness.

But, what was missing were clear goal scoring opportunities, though Atleti had a chance to take the lead in the opening 45 minutes when Diego Costa smashed home a left-footed shot that was incorrectly voided because of an inexistent offside.

The second half got off to a roaring start.

The men in red and white seemed determined to get ahead, but it was the home club’s Juankar (feel free to give in to your inner teenager and chuckle) who narrowly missed out on giving his team the edge when his shot hit the post.

That was about it for the Andalusians. Shortly thereafter, Verdiblanco striker Braian Rodríguez foolishly earned a second yellow and was given his marching orders, spelling doom for the beleaguered Béticos.

Three minutes later, Gabi fired off what would prove to be the match-winner, a spectacular goal that was followed up by a lovely team effort finished off by Diego Costa.

With three more points in the bag and level at 70 with Real Madrid, it was time to back Messi and company in their visit to the Santiago Bernabéu.

It turned out to be a classic Sunday indeed. The Culés ended up coming from behind twice to defeat our eternal rivals, granting us the power to control our own fate from here on out, though it will undoubtedly take a 300-like effort.

It’s pretty simple. All we have to do is win every remaining game on the schedule to retain the throne–starting with our encounter versus Granada on Wednesday at the Vicente Calderón.

Fellow Colchonero, don’t feel weird when you’ve checked the league standings for the 76th time on Monday.

You are not alone.

Post-game notes and quotes:

Four more games to go before ‘El Cholo’ talks of title chances

“The match was at a deadlock; tough,” Atleti boss Diego Simeone said afterwards.

“Ever since [Gabriel] Calderón arrived, Betis have gained aggressiveness.”

The Rojiblanco commander-in-chief continued: “I’m happy about the game. It cost us a lot of work in the first half, but since the start of the second half, we improved.

“We began getting ourselves into it and taking the match where we wanted: to Gabi’s goal and then the dismissal. Betis came into this one after a huge effort [on Thursday], and we took advantage of it.”

‘Cholo’ admitted that, “after the red card, logically, it was another game”, before offering the Verdiblancos some praise.

“Betis never gave in to defeat. That showed a lot of honour given their situation.”

Simeone stayed true to his word that he would not speak of his men’s title chances until there are only five fixtures left on the calendar.

Gabi blasts off again

There’s no doubt that memories of the missile Gabi launched at Real Madrid earlier this month still brings feelings of sheer bliss to Rojiblancos.

The Atleti captain banged in another long-distance strike on Sunday to pave the way to victory for our warriors in red and white.

The goal was the 30-year-old midfielder’s third of the season — all three scored in league play — and second against Betis.

“The dismissal was decisive,” the Atlético youth academy product told reporters.

“The team played a lot better starting at that point and, in the end, we’ve achieved a deserved victory.”

“We feel very powerful,” Gabi said.

“More and more so each day.”

The Beast keeps his cool and adds to his tally

It really should’ve been Diego Costa opening up the scoring, but referee Estrada Fernández called back the Spain international’s wonderful shot in the first half.

Every one of Costa’s outings is a personal challenge for the lethal striker.

Refs disrespect him. Opposing fans and players abhor him.

The Beast of the Manzanares’ adventure on Sunday at the Benito Villamarín was no different, particularly considering that Betis centre-back Paulão was clearly tasked with the job of driving him mad.

This week’s winner of the Xabi Alonso award, Paulão got away with a series of cynical challenges, including a dastardly kick to Costa’s nether regions.

Our super striker got the last laugh though — possibly a high-pitched one — when he snuck past his aggressor to score his 23rd league goal and 31st overall of the campaign.

As my illustrious colleague Derek Maaijen pointed out in his match report, Costa has scored the last four times we have faced off against Betis and, all four of his goals were scored between the 55th and 65th minute.

With at least 11 games left to play in all competitions, the Lagarto-born hitman has a chance to surpass Falcao’s incredible total of 36 goals in a single season (2011-12).

Godín, along with the Rojiblanco faithful, was pulling for Barça in the Clásico

“We did our job in a hard match,” member of Spain’s best defence Diego Godín said.

“We came out with a positive result and leave here having gotten our homework done.”

The Uruguayan continued: “We can’t talk about winning La Liga because there are a lot of matches left, but we will battle until the end.

“Now, we have to focus on Granada, enjoy the victory, watch Madrid versus Barcelona and, beginning tomorrow, we will start to work to try to win the next game at the Calderón.

“I love to watch football and [the Clásico] is a nice game to watch. Hopefully Barça can win it so that we can keep fighting for the league.”

Other notes:

  • Thibaut Courtois bagged his 50th career clean sheet in La Liga, having shutout our foes in almost half of his 102 appearances. As is very often the case, the Belgian idol didn’t have to do much to earn his 21st clean sheet in the present term (15th in La Liga), but we all know that he is more than ready and capable when he is needed. Thibaut was probably delighted at the Bernabéu’s goalfest, which places him in an even better position to land the Zamora trophy for the second year running.
  • Arda put in yet another sublime shift, and was credited with his 5th assist of the season (1 more than his total from the previous campaign), simply by dealing a pass to Gabi that our skipper then put all his might into.
  • Koke added his team-leading 15th assist this season (11th in La Liga; 1 less than category leader Cesc Fábregas) in splendid fashion, finding Costa with the fluff of his hair in the 64th minute.
  • The moment we announced Filipe Luís’ remarkable streak of 16 games without seeing yellow in last week’s Aftermath, we of course set off a chain of events that directly led to the left-back’s fifth booking on Sunday. Filipe will not be able to take part on Wednesday when we host Granada.
  • Currently, no Atlético player is in danger of suspension.

  • Jeronamo

    Thank you barca!!! On to the next one… We need to continue to focus and work game by game 😉

    Aupa Atleti!!!

  • Pantic#10

    This morning i woke up after a beautiful dream….we were at the top of La Liga.
    No wait.
    This is not a dream, We’re at the TOP!!!

  • palestine-atletico

    9 games to come.
    9 final games.
    We have to win them all.
    Bilbao, valencia and barca away.

  • Valinia

    Tht stunning goal frm gabi.. Our captain!!

  • Chewie

    Have any of you thought what would happen if we were to face Chelsea in the SF without Courtois? I think we all should pray to the almighty football god and ask for a good draw.

  • Ali

    @ahmed i think bilbao game will be postponed cuz we can,t play bilbao on 30 and barcelona on first! Any news guys i like that game to be postponed!

  • farhan

    barca game is postponed… so i think ours maybe

  • piserakos

    @Ali… we will play on 29th with Bilbao (Saturday) and on 1st with Barca (Thuesday)
    Let’s see guys now our program and think this! we are at the end! Now it’s the time that point need is what makes one game difficult.
    Granada at home… They can drop points cause they are away from the relegation zone, so probably they will rotate at our game cause they will can search points at easier games.
    Bilbao away… It’s the most difficult game (except with Barca) but there are two facts that may will make it a little easier. One they almost have secured CL football for next season and i think they would love Atleti win La Liga.
    Villareal home… Difficult game but at Calderon we would win them. They are not at their best form.
    Getafe away… At the relegation zone, they would fight to take every point but they are not really good team.
    Elche home.. They would also be near the relegation zone but at Calderon we would probably win them
    Valencia away… One more tricky match. I think that they would have almost secured Europa League spot at that time and they would not have that needs at this time…
    Levante away… We will face one time with no point needs. They would not play at Europa League and they would be away from the relagation zone, they will fight but they would not give their 110% to win.
    Malaga home… 99% easy game, they would have stayed out of the relagation zone and they would come for tourism at Madrid.
    Last game with Barca!
    Probably Real will drop points at Sevilla at Wednesday.

  • Ali

    I really like bibao game to be postponed so we can have energy

  • starvs

    Last game with Barca gonna be so nuts and high stakes (hopefully)

  • Dircil
  • Ahmad Hossainy

    ** I really didn’t understand your tweets yesterday Martin when you were making jokes about Juankar, then you made it again here which made think a little .. then I got it

    see, in Arabic, we pronounce the letter “J” just like the Spanish do as in Arabic we have the letter “خ” .. then I remembered that some other languages speakers can’t pronounce it that way -mainly English speakers- so they pronounce
    the “Ju” like a “w”
    and at that moment, I wished I have seen the match with English commentating 🙂

    ** I did check the league table too many times, but not 76 though
    I checked it in Spanish, English and Arabic websites,
    I kept watching the table and enjoying my eyes, and suddenly I found myself saying out loud :
    “I could never get bored of watching this”

    ** of course every one of Costa’s outings is a challenge, and he was not so successful in these challenges lately, yesterday’s goal was his first away goal in La Liga in 5 games, the first in second round of La Liga & the first in 2014

    speaking of Costa, another illustrious colleague of yours tweeted an important stat. about him, Billy Edwards mentioned how good Costa is in both feet, of his 25 goals from open play this season, he scored 13 with his right foot & 12 with his left

    https://twitter.com/billyedwards94/status/447789750288912384

    but my best two-footed rojiblanco is still Forlan !

    ** few days ago I said that I wish Filipe picks the perfect time to have his 5th yellow, and I believe he did, on paper, Granada game is the easiest one among our last 9

    **Chewie, I only read about Courtois ban from playing against Chelsea in an Arabic website -and I do not trust Arabs- and just 2 lines in MARCA, who are also infamous for their big lies, but even if what they said is true, they also said that it’s not a full ban, but it’s like Leo & Oliver cases, if we want him to play against them we have to pay them extra money

    but anyway, I can’t see any reason to worry, Ibra & his friends will thrash Chelsea

    *****

    This is where we hold them
    This is where we fight
    And this is where they die

    damn it, I can’t believe there are only 9 aftermaths left this season, I don’t know how can I spend my summer without it 🙁

  • piserakos

    @ahmad… so i’m only here who didn’t understood the joke of juankar… We also say the ‘j’ like the spanish with the latter ‘χ’ and i my spanish accent is far better than my english accent 😛
    About Felipe. I was the only one here who was celebrated for the yellow card? We have a easy game at the Calderon and it is at Wednestay, that means that we would rotate a little. So we would rest Felipe and we will have him clear.
    Mine two footed favorite striker is also Forlan 😛 Of course i have to tell that Costa and Villa are both fantastic two footed strikers!
    About Courtois i read it at Marca and i think also at Marca. I wrote it so my Greek ‘rojiblanco’ blog and so i’m the one who gave that info at my country 😛 hope it is truth cause i would be ashamed 😛 anyway i don’t think we will face Chelsea and even though i don’t know i’m the only one here but i think we should ‘leave’ CL and fight for La Liga.

  • piserakos

    Oh i forgot… I checked it 5 times at the official table of La Liga. 3-4 times at Marca (they have the teams with the league ranking), 2 times at our site, 1 time at my blog and 5-6 times at Greek sites.
    I noticed one thing! All the Greek sites (except 1) had Real first and Atletico 2nd!

  • piserakos

    just made my tweeter account 😛 everyone who wants to follow me can easilly find me with @piserakos

  • kris

    Well, it should actually be Atletico 1st, Real 2nd, because of head-to-head records but these journalists just don’t seem to care.
    I don’t think we should “leave” CL, and fight for La Liga, when obviously there is more money coming from CL than La Liga. What we should aim for is atleast knocking out Barca from the UCL and us winning atleast the home game of the semi-finals(if it is Bayern, the other teams we can definitely knock out). But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we have got Granada up next and we should be thinking about that game as of right now. Score as many goals as possible from Villa and COSTA! That’s what I would like to see. Before the season began, I kept on commenting on here that Costa will score 35-40+ goals and that is looking like a certain at this point. Great to have a lethal striker every season in the club. I don’t remember Costa scoring a hattrick this season, am I wrong? I would like for him (very much) to score at least one hattrick before the season ends. It’d be great if he won the Pichichi too, but with Messi back and Real and Barca getting penalties, and Atletico barely getting any, I don’t know….

  • piserakos

    @kris… No Costa hasn’t scored a hat-trick yet.. He has only one with Atleti at Pablona before 3-4 seasons if i remember well. But i’m sure this season he hasn’t scored a hattrick… About game against Granada. I dissagree with you at one thing! We should win them easilly but don’t get tired. What i mean is simple… Give everything at the first 20 minutes and if everything is going according to the plan and we have scored (maybe more than once) then keep energy and try to win the match without get tired. A 2-0 victory will also give 3 points

  • anshary

    im with you on that one Piserakos. We should ‘leave’ CL and fight for La Liga.

  • farhan

    @piserakos..
    start following you on twitter….

    🙂

  • Ali

    I made twitter yeaterday and started following martin , starv and ahmed!

  • Ali

    Yesterday*