With Barcelona surprisingly beaten at Granada the previous evening, Atlético took the chance to go three points clear at the top of La Liga on Sunday with a deserved win at local rivals Getafe.
Diego Godín opened the scoring before Diego Costa bravely converted a second late on, although it very nearly came at a cost, following a nasty collision with the goal frame that dominated the post-match headlines.
Rojiblancos everywhere winced in horror as their star man collided into the post whilst sliding in to score. Despite being stretchered off, though, the club confirmed after the game that it was no more than a wound, and that the beast may indeed have bones of steel, as suspected.
The Twittersphere was quick to announce that Costa’s season and World Cup dream were in jeopardy, although in typical fashion, the Spanish international recovered to take a place on the team bus and kit up for training on Monday morning. “We just need to fix the post,” was how Simeone’s press officer Pepe Pasques eloquently summed up the incident.
As for the game, Atleti were authoritative and had the home side under control for the 90 minutes, striking near the end of each half to secure their twelfth away win of the season. Often in the past we have struggled at the Coliseum Álfonso Pérez, with September 2008 the last time we registered a win there, and perhaps earlier in the season we would have stumbled under the pressure. However, belief in the team is sky high, and despite obvious signs of fatigue, the players continue to put in strong performances as the dream draws ever closer.
Diego Costa was, unsurprisingly, also the main topic of discussion before the game, but after missing Wednesday’s win over Barcelona, he returned to start alongside David Villa and Raúl García in a very top heavy line-up from Simeone. Our leading scorer had an eventful game, clashing throughout with the Getafe centre-backs, and very nearly losing his cool in the second half after some dirty tactics from Rafa López. Despite also having a penalty saved, he did get the last laugh with his goal and is now ahead of Lionel Messi in the pichichi stakes, and just two goals behind leader Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese attacker faces a spell on the sidelines and will miss the Copa del Rey final, which Atleti can watch on Wednesday in the knowledge that both teams are playing catch up to them domestically, and enjoy a rare mid-week off before going again two days later in a final of their own at home to Elche.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone pleased with players’ professionalism
Partido trampa is how games such as Sunday’s are referred to in Spain, potential banana skins or ‘traps’. Coming up against a city rival, fighting for their Primera División status so late in the season in a game where they had nothing to lose was always likely to be tough, but to Simeone’s pleasure, they were dealt with comfortably.
“The team did a great job, it was a very complicated fixture. It cost the players effort and ambition to achieve a very important result. This takes us to where we wanted to be, with five rounds to go, there are five finals to go, and that’s how we’ll approach them.”
“Now we focus on the fixture with Elche, which is the next final we have. We won’t think about anything else but to prepare for it and rest so the players get to it in good conditions.”
Not once this season has Cholo‘s focus slipped. You only have to look at the way he handles the press to get an insight into the brilliance of the man. However, it seems partido a partido is now a thing of the past, as the remaining five matches are much more than that.
“From now on, I change what I said about game-by-game,” he said. “For all of the Atléticos, now we play final-by-final.”
“I always said we depended on ourselves and I stick to that. This situation depends on the ambition, the enthusiasm, the effort, the work, and most of all the team’s humility.”
“I imagine next Friday there will be a full stadium, prepared for one of the remaining finals,” he finished.
Prolific Godín nods home sixth of the season
As Simeone will tell you, the most important factor towards our success is the team collective. Individuals are secondary, everyone pulls together, and with that, any of the players on the pitch can come up with a decisive moment, even the most unlikely of sources.
In the Coliseum, Diego Godín did just that, rising highest to head home his sixth of the campaign and break the deadlock in the process. The Uruguayan colossus spoke at full-time.
“Getafe are a tough opponent, we’ve learned that in recent years. They played very well,” he said.
“We knew what we had to do, it was very important to maintain the gap ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona and we did that. The result is very pleasing and although our advantage is good, now more than ever we are focusing on one game at a time.”
Costa injury a false alarm
As previously mentioned, hearts were in mouths at the final whistle as fans waited for news on the extent of Diego Costa’s apparent shin injury, fearing the worst. Thankfully, no long-lasting damage was done.
“He is happy and well,” Simeone confirmed in his post-match press conference. “He made a great effort throughout the match. One more cut does not do anything to this tiger.”
The goal was his 26th in La Liga this season, although he will need another seven to beat Diego Forlán‘s record of 32 in 2008-09. With 34 in all competitions , he is closing in on Falcao‘s total of 36 the year before last, the best of any Atleti player since Baltazar in the late 1980s.
Also pleasing was another assist for Adrián, who looks to have regained confidence and could have an important part to play as the season draws to a close.
- Ahead of the game, Atleti’s players sported t-shirts in support of defender Sílvio, currently out on loan at Benfica. The Portuguese full-back broke his leg in Thursday’s Europa League game against AZ, meaning he will sadly miss his team’s march to their domestic title as well as the World Cup. Ánimo!
- Mono Burgos was in the spotlight for being the first coach to use the new Google Glass to analyse the match from the touchlines. An unlikely pioneer, the ex-Rojiblanco goalkeeper had real time match statistics fed into in his line of vision with a specialised data system developed by the Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia (UCAM). Could this be the way forward?
- Diego Costa missed his fourth penalty of the season at a crucial stage in the second half, which will be a worry given that he has only taken eight. Whilst we don’t doubt the home crowd’s quite unique method of distraction was a success, is it time to relieve the beast of spot-kick duties? And could this also be a trend that catches on?
- You may have missed it given the panic that ensued, but Costa‘s goal was yet another with his left foot. From open play, he has 14 with his weaker foot now this season, compared to 13 with his ‘stronger’ right-foot. Forlán-esque.
- The clean sheet was Thibaut Courtois‘ 25th this season in all competitions, beating the club record of 24 set by himself last year.
- 26 league wins also equals another club record, set in none other than the doblete season of 1995-96. Back then though, the team played 42 matches, compared to the 33 so far in the current campaign.