La Real were subjected to a 90 minute lesson on how to play football last night as Atleti reminded La Liga who the reigning champions are.
After retaining third spot due to Valencia’s goalless draw at home to Villareal, Simeone’s warriors looked to cement their place just behind ‘the big two’ with a home win against Real Sociedad – and that they did.
Score twice, then don’t let the other team have a touch seems to be the game plan as Atleti recorded their third straight 2-0 win in La Liga.
First five minute syndrome struck again as the dead lock was broken at just over 120 seconds.
It was Mikel Gonzalez’ own goal that put the Los Rojiblancos into the lead but Arda Turan came close to opening the scoring in the first minute as El Turco saw his volley canon back out off the woodwork.
Atleti didn’t take their foot off the gas and It didn’t take long before Geronimo Rulli found himself picking the ball out of the back of his own net again.
Former Txuri-Urdin hitman Griezmann took his goal tally to 19 in all competitions with a real centre-forward’s finish as he made the most of Rulli’s ill fated parry and knocked the ball in from close range.
With the two goal target accomplished after 10 minutes, Atleti then opted to completely dominate their opposition with a mouthwatering display of control.
Despite brief interruptions by Chory Castro and a late Granero freekick, Los Rojiblancos decided to provide the spectators with a textbook example on how to win comfortably.
The fact that the starting eleven who took to the field last night were heavily rotated – this is the first time we’ve seen that particular selection of defenders – put even more gloss on such an outstanding performance and the only real problem facing Simeone ahead of the Champions League quarter final showdown is who he is going to pick!
Post-game notes and quotes
“The team comes out strong and settles the match early” – Simeone
“I feel that we start games strong and this allows us to control them,” Diego Simeone declared to the media in the Calderon’s press room.
“Today’s second half was played better, with better ball control, with better possession to keep the game flowing.”
“The team found the goal and at least today we could hold the ball much better,” the Argentine continued.
In regard to Fernando Torres, Simeone said “I see him playing well, working on what the team needs, continually pressuring the defenders and that makes us work better in the midfield.”
“As to what has changed, he is not the same player as when we played together. He was 19 years old and now he is 30. Now he is a much more rounded player than then.” Cholo reminisced.
“He also gives Griezmann a lot of freedom because defenders have all their attention on him.”
Simeone then acknowledged his team’s impressive defensive exploits: “For sure, being strong defensively has been our structure over the years.”
“Going back to being strong defensively speaks highly of all the staff, of the whole group. Because it is not only the defence, it starts from the forwards and the better the forwards work, the better the defensive work is.”
“Let’s see if we can continue on this path which will no doubt be difficult in the face of so much competition.”
“We know that it is normal to have some downs in a season, but we are back up there now.” – Antoine Griezmann
The Frenchman also highlighted the importance of the defensive unit behind him.
“Yes, we have to be strong as a team. We know that if we keep a clean sheet, it is much easier to win. Now we are fighting for the Champions League, and we have to continue like this.”
Koke plays the captain, and the composer
Koke’s role in resurrecting the performances of Atleti in recent weeks is no fluke and his performance last night, in the centre of the midfield, highlighted his importance to Los Rojiblancos.
It was Koke’s long ranged effort that forced Rulli into spilling the ball out for a lurking Griezmann who put the game to bed.
Ateltico bossed possession last night and at the heart of every flurry of passes was Koke. By removing the bulldozer that was Diego Costa, Atleti now have to create goals with a steady build up from the centre of the pitch. This suits Koke down to the ground and is shining under the new adjustments.
Seeing our canterano proudly wearing the captain’s armband melts the hearts of every colchonero and as his development rapidly improves each game. It may not be long before he is permanently el capitan.
Cloudy at the Calderon
Jan Oblak aka ‘The Cloud’ had a relatively quiet match but when called upon made sure he kept his clean sheet.
Last nights shut out was Oblak’s fourth straight clean sheet and it’s been 278 minutes since the Slovenian has conceded in open play.
Oblak is currently deputising for the injured Miguel Angel Moya, but if his confident performances continue the Spaniard will have trouble retaining his place between the sticks.
Oblak’s efforts have been impressive but he is yet face opposition that really put him under pressure. Next weeks Champions League quarter final first leg against eternal rivals Real Madrid will be a true test of the young goalkeepers capabilities.
- Fernando Torres, despite playing a part in Gonzalez’ own goal, struggled to get involved in the game and only managed to attempt 13 passes, completing just 8 of them. His sole shot of the game was off target also.
- Raul Jimenez made a cameo appearance mid-way through the second half but the Mexican couldn’t reward his determination with a goal.
- Jose Maria Gimenez started the game alongside Miranda and although he couldn’t pick out team-mates with a few passes, marshalled the back four well in the absence of compatriot Diego Godin.
- Guilherme Siquiera made his way back into the starting line up due to the suspension of Juanfran and formed a solid wall among Gimenez, Miranda and Gamez.
Our recaps are written by the excellent Luis Muscat – check him out on Twitter over at @Luis_Muscat