The red and white aftermath: Match Day 31

Atlético flexed their muscles in tough test at the San Mamés to retain top spot

Koke heads in match-winner at the San Mamés  (AS)

Koke heads in match-winner at the San Mamés

Atlético put together a hairy-chested, stomp-your-foot-on-the-ground-and-punch-a-Madridista-in-the-face comeback performance in Bilbao on Saturday to earn their fifth straight league win.

Stunned by an unexpected Athletic goal in the sixth minute — the first goal they had conceded in five La Liga matches — Diego Simeone’s hombres recovered quickly and went on to conquer the new San Mamés for the second time this season.

Mind you, this is a site neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona were able to come out triumphantly from.

But, we’re not Real or Barça, we’re the leaders of the league and Saturday night’s victory was a tremendous morale-booster in our dream quest for a 10th league title.

Los Rojiblancos now lead the Primera División in away wins with 11, and their current point total of 76 is the club’s second-highest ever–behind the 87 stacked up the last time they won La Liga in 1995-96.

Our fourth defeat of los Leones in four tries in this campaign gave us our 36th win, the most ever for Atlético in a single season.

Are there still any non-believers left out there?

Post-game notes and quotes:

Simeone: “We don’t have the talent Real and Barça have, but we have a team”

“We played a great match,” living legend Diego Simeone said following his squad’s tour de force in the Basque Country.

“The team bounced back out of commitment, and never suffered from conceding the goal. We remain in an important position.

“Let us enjoy it.”

‘Cholo’ continued: “These were three very valuable points at a difficult ground. It has been one of our best league games.”

The Argentine manager doesn’t think the effort put into this bout will affect his men’s performance against Barça in the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.

“We enjoyed this triumph and there are still a lot of hours left,” he said.

“For us, there are so many hours. At this stage, we don’t even know what city we’re sleeping in.”

Asked if this Atleti side reminds him of the Doblete squad from the 1995-96 season Simeone starred on, he said: “It wouldn’t be nice to compare them. That success was achieved with our identity, while this Atleti is establishing a style of play, made up of the same essence the club have always had: being strong, competitive, attuned, counterattacking…we don’t have the talent that Madrid and Barça have, but we do have a team.”

He scores, we win!

Stunning stat: The last 31 games that Diego Costa has scored in, los Colchoneros have won. In the 51 games that Costa has gotten his name on the scoresheet with Atleti, the club have only lost once (at Manzano’s Sevilla on 3 October 2010).

“He keeps growing day-to-day,” Simeone remarked about his deadly attacker.

“He’s got an enormous amount of physical strength and it rubs off on his teammates.”

The ‘Beast of the Manzanares’ now has a league goal for every year of his age (25), and on Saturday bagged his 100th as a professional (5 Peñafiel; 1 Braga; 6 Celta; 9 Albacete; 8 Valladolid; 10 Rayo; and 61 Atlético).

The Spain international’s total in La Liga of 25 goals leaves him with a decent chance of catching up to league-leader Cristiano, who has found the back of the net 28 times.

“Diego is just incredible,” teammate Koke gushed about his favourite target.

“He’s spectacular, and hopefully he continues to be–with us.”

The Beast, with 33 goals overall in the present term, is now just 3 goals away from Falcao’s best mark of 36 and 1 away from El Tigre’s total from last season of 34.

Costa was replaced by David Villa in injury time and appeared a bit banged up, but the club clarified afterwards that the lethal forward was totally fine and injury free.

Resurrection, Redux

Iker Muniain’s amazing early goal brought back bad memories of Atleti’s shocking loss in Pamplona from a little over a month ago.

In that clash, Osasuna also struck at the six-minute mark and went on to win 3-0, as Atleti never overcame that premature concession.

But our Resurrector, Jorge Resurreción Merodio, on sacred soil — it’s known as the ‘Cathedral’ after all — brought us back to life Saturday night.

Though Costa went on to do all the leg work for our equaliser in the 22nd minute, he had received the ball from Koke, who exquisitely — with one touch — intercepted an errant Athletic pass and simultaneously re-directed the ball to the Beast.

That majestic stroke of brilliance was good for the 22-year-old’s 16th assist of the season, and 12th in La Liga.

Together with Cesc Fàbregas, Koke leads all of Europe in the category.

Oh, and he also scored the match-winner–his 6th goal in 2013-14.

“He’s a very important player,” coach Simeone said.

“Tactically, he interprets the game phenomenally. He’s among the best in La Liga and everything he achieves is because of the effort he puts in.”

“After such an intense game, everything hurts,” Koke admitted after the heroic victory.

“We have some days to rest and must now focus on the Champions League. We knew we were going to play at a very difficult ground. They were playing for a lot, as were we, and it was evident from the intensity of the encounter. It has been a complicated match, but we were able to take the three points.”

He continued: “We knew we’d have space, because they play with a very high line, and that’s how we found Costa on the first goal, and I was able to score the second and am very happy about it.

“This Atleti have no ceiling. Each match is a final and that’s how we play. We have a final on Tuesday and another one on Saturday, and that’s how it will be until the end of the season.”

Other notes:

  • While Thibaut Courtois unfortunately didn’t add to his remarkable shutout total this time around, he did add to his ever-growing collection of legendary saves. In the 80th minute, Athletic spark plug Gaizka Toquero — who’s been a bit of a terror for Atleti in recent years — crossed the ball into the goalie box in the 80th minute. Aritz Aduriz jumped between Miranda and Juanfran and easily beat the pair to the ball, making solid contact with his head and directing the ball where any other goalkeeper in the universe would never have gotten to, except of course, our ‘Tibu’. Our Belgian ‘White Chocolate’ instinctively reached out his right hand and pushed the ball out with the fingers he’d later use to count the points he managed to salvage.
  • Right back Juanfran suited up for Atleti for the 150th time on Saturday, celebrating the milestone in memorable fashion.
  • Gabi picked up his 10th yellow card of the season, though it will surely be appealed, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be available for Villarreal’s visit next weekend. Our captain was harshly booked for a handball, as he had his arms very closely tucked to his sides with no intention of using them to play the ball.

  • Kris

    But, we’re not Real or Barça, we’re the leaders of the league and Saturday night’s victory was a tremendous morale-booster in our dream quest for a 10th league title.
    Has me chuckling and feeling like a boss. 🙂 :p

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I know this will sound strange right now, but everybody knows that according to all circumstances, it was our goal this season before El Cholo and his men surprise the whole world and maybe surprise themselves too :
    with our win and Sevilla loss last night, we have secured a spot in UCL next season,
    and we need just one point to secures one of the 3 direct spots in group stage

    6 more wins to finish above Real Madrid, and 6 more wins + a draw in Camp Nou to win La Liga
    no one can stop us from achieving that .. except us
    we could stay calm and steady .. or we could get nervous and shoot ourselves in the foot
    that’s what El Cholo and his staff need to work on in these last meters

    I can’t wait to see the looks on the Madridista faces when we get our La Decima before they get theirs

    Fuck you Teixeira Vitienes .. both of you

  • Brad

    Ahmad: Those 6 wins + 1 draw get smaller if Real Madrid or Barca drop any points, with Valdes out, I’d bet Barca might lose a couple points down the stretch.

  • Farzad from Iran

    This is our atletic , Hf we play like this we will get la liga , Hf we play like this we will win barca ,,too

  • Farzad from Iran

    Raul garcia is a good player but his shoot are so so bad , yesterday he could not score one goal

  • MR

    this team is just [email protected] amazing, no other team on Earth has the same passion and discipline like Atleti
    my thoughts on yesterdays win:
    – Costa will only get a penalty if the opponent grabs a gun and shoots him in the head inside the box. La Liga is ridiculous, they are doing everything to make us fail but that only gives us more power.
    – Koke is naturally the best player in the world, but he is really tired now. In the last minutes he could hardly breathe. From now we should take all the time between matches just to rest and recover.
    – Obviously Cholo is right, we don’t have the money the 2 muhfuckers have, but if we look at the starting XIs we have to admit that we have the best players in every defensive position (GK, LB CBL CBR RB, DM), we got the best striker, and we got the best creative midfielder too. Thats 6 or 7 positions, in which we have more talented players than the 2 bithes. (just imagine Arbeloa or Alves playing RB in Atleti – we would concede much more)
    – Arda did very little yesterday, and I felt like he really disliked coming on as a substitute. Villa didn’t look happy either when coming in the 90th minute, that’s no wonder.

  • starvs

    Exactly Kris, great line Martin.

    But the best part of this was Koke’s quote:

    “Diego is just incredible,” “He’s spectacular, and hopefully he continues to be–with us.”

    Implying Costa may leave this summer (obvious), but he certainly isn’t.

    He is so good. I’m very sad I accidentally donated my one of one #FREEKOKE shirt to Salvation Army, I hope it is in good hands.

  • Chewie

    It’s so nice and unusual to realize that looking at our subs I see no obvious weak links. True, Adrian is in terrible form, Cebolla is a bit below average, Insua is shaky… wait, I forgot Aranzubia – he is a joke of a goalkeeper. But overall there is a positive dynamics to the club’s transfer activity and even these players are somewhat decent. Call me silly, but I trust Cholo and Caminero. Even if we lose some of the key players – which we probably won’t – I am sure Simeone will lick the rest of the team into enormous shape.
    BTW – according to Ukranian press, Sosa is so happy to play for Atletico that he is willing to “pressure Metallist to let him go this summer”. Under no conditions he is willing to come back to Ukraine.

  • Mahmoud

    Ahmad we already got our Decima before Madrid, in the Bernabeu last year 😀

  • Kris

    Well Chewie, who wouldn’t like to play under Simeone??

  • Chewie

    @Kris, only an idiot. Simeone is a magnet, once you get in his magnetic field, there’s no way out!

  • Kris

    I am hoping Costa will still be stuck in Simeone’s magnet next season too. Hopefully Thibu would like to be stuck forever in Cholo’s magnet as well. 🙂

  • farhan
  • farhan

    but i donot believe on itttttttttttttttttt

  • Andres (Lolaya)

    Please tell me this is a mind game. We need diego costa!!!

  • starvs

    Looks we are gonna have a game time decision tomorrow. Hopefully Cholo being over cautious with his prediction, this would be a massive blow…

  • Jeronamo


  • farhan

    we still have VILLA so keep calm…. he will score