Win, win, win and – if necessary – win again. That is what Atlético have to do if they are to claim their first La Liga title in 18 years this season.
The team know that three more victories are needed from their last 4 games to secure top spot, although as usual, the only game that matters right now is the next one.
All season, Simeone has insisted on the game-by-game approach, and said that he would only speak of winning La Liga should his team still be in the race come April.
True to his word, he told press before Friday’s clash that instead of ‘partido a partido’, a phrase that will surely go down in Atlético folklore regardless of where his team finishes, it’s now ‘final a final’. Partido just doesn’t describe how big the remaining four matches are for the red and whites.
In the first of their five finals, Atlético were made to sweat but ultimately broke down a stubborn Elche defence on Friday evening, 2-0 the end result.
Not for the first time in matches of this magnitude, Miranda and Diego Costa were the scorers, the former breaking the deadlock on 72 minutes with a perfectly executed looping header.
Both have a game in hand, although before turning attentions to Tuesday’s equally important Champions League semi-final, Simeone’s team can be safe in the knowledge that Real Madrid and Barcelona are the ones playing catch up, 6 and 7 points behind respectively.
The best news was that Diego Costa had seemingly not been affected in the slightest by the collision with the post last week that many predicted would ‘end his season’, and stuck in goal number 35 of a dream season.
However, our penalty woes continued, and although Costa converted his late spot-kick to make the game safe, David Villa was the latest victim having earlier seen his effort parried by Manu Herrera.
All in all though, the team will be pleased to have come through with the victory, and can now turn attentions to Europe and the visit of Chelsea on Tuesday.
Cholo delighted with team effort
You probably don’t need to hear what Simeone had to say post-match, his touchline shenanigans usually say just about everything, although the Argentine tactican was a little more calm in the press room.
“We knew it was going to be an open and dangerous match because we faced a team that, tactically, are very strong,” he said.
“We struggled to find gaps in the first half and by contrast, they took advantage of chances on the counter-attack. The attitude changed in the second half. The intensity increased and, from persistence, came the reward. Our perseverance delivered a fair victory.”
Cholo opted to make all three substitutions available to him early in the second half, but once more it paid off to maximum effect.
“The changes were positive. Diego gave us depth, Raul García’s entry was decisive. José [Sosa] broke the stalemate with a great corner… we were a lot more dangerous in the second half going back to 4-4-2.” he finished.
Sosa the super sub yet again
Sosa’s assist was his fifth since joining on loan from Metalist Kharkiv back in January, four of which have been from the substitute’s bench.
The Argentine international has slotted into the set-up with ease, and much like fellow winter addition Diego Ribas has added a different type of threat to our squad options.
We know we have to take every opportunity that comes on the pitch. Every ball, every free-kick… as often games are decided by these situations,” he told press.
“The first half was difficult, we struggled to find our rhythm, but we drew energy from the crowd and pushed forward. For us it is a great relief and great joy, we are living very important moments right now.”
The former Bayern Munich has also spoken lately of his desire to remain at the Calderón beyond the summer, would you be in favour of signing Sosa on a permanent deal?
Miranda decisive in yet another final
In addition to a typically solid match defence, João Miranda did again what he does so well and found the net in another final.
As Real Madrid and Chelsea found out last season, the Brazilian saves his best moments in front of goal for the big occasion, and it was he who provided the vital breakthrough twenty minutes from time.
“This was a very important win,” he said upon the final whistle. “We have four finals left and have to carry on like this.”
“When we have to suffer, the team knows how to suffer. Now we can rest and think about the game against Chelsea.”
Miranda also revealed that the goal was something he and Sosa had rehearsed in training, and Simeone could be seen by TV cameras before the goal signalling for his compatriot to send the ball to the back post.
“It’s a move we’ve trained for, one we’ve worked on a lot,” he claimed “We have plenty of quality from set-pieces, and thankfully this time I was able to benefit.”
Escribá wishes former club well
Nowadays we are used to seeing Mono Burgos accompanying Simeone on the touchlines, although not long ago, Elche boss Fran Escribá was the man with that role, spending two years at the Calderón as Quique Sánchez Flores’ assistant.
Since then, Escribá has taken the venture into management and is having great success, having won the Segunda last year and enjoyed a solid campaign in the top tier this season. He spoke after the game about the match and his former club.
“We had our chances to go ahead in the first half, but in the second half everything changed. Regardless of how of well we feel we’ve performed, the result is what it is and we leave without anything,” he said.
“However, holding on here is difficult and I have to congratulate Atlético. I have great memories here and wish them the best, hopefully they win La Liga and the Champions League.”
– After February’s blip, the Rojiblancos have now won 8 league matches on the bounce, hitting form just at the right time. Before Simeone’s arrival such a run had never been done in club history, although this is the third time he has managed the feat.
– During those 8, we have kept seven clean sheets and only conceded once. Our defence remains the best in the division, and Courtois is closing in on the Zamora trophy for the second successive season.
– As for the Pichichi, Diego Costa is now just one goal behind Cristiano Ronaldo with 27 in La Liga. Whether he is eligible for the Zarra it is still unclear, although if so then we can assume the award is already his.
– The win was also our 27th in La Liga, another club record.
– Keeping with the record theme, Villa’s penalty was the fourth we have missed this season, one away from the unmatched total of five we spurned back in 1975-76.
– And one more; Atleti have now scored 108 goals this season, the best ever return in 110 years of history.