El Madrigal was the stage for a nervy affair between third and sixth place in the league.
Grizi’s brace-per-game ratio took a hit but with two strong penalty shouts the Frenchman can feel aggrieved he wasn’t able to get himself onto the score sheet.
Koke nearly found the back of the net after Mandzukic held up the ball, swiveled and laid the ball off for our number 6 whose toe poke couldn’t trouble former teammate Asenjo.
The game was far from one way traffic though as the home side showed why they’ve had such success this season and are line for another European finish.
The best chance of the first half came for Villarreal as an inviting free-kick was nodded down by Victor Ruiz. Unfortunately for the centre back, Jan Oblak was in the mood for a shut out and the Slovenian’s left hand ushered the ball back out.
As the Villarreal turned the heat up it seemed that sharing the points would be a welcome compromise.
Simeone, fresh back from his touchline ban, wasn’t settling for a draw however and with the introduction of Saul, Torres and Raul Garcia established his attacking intent.
El Niño’s introduction to the game provided Atleti with a willing runner and an actual threat on the counter.
With the game entering the twilight stage Torres produced a moment of magic that rolled back the years and gave Atleti all three points.
Ivorian centre back Bailly misjudged a header and as he struggled to regain control the ball was plucked from his grasp by a 19 year old Torres – hold up – no a 31 year old Torres who glided down the field, dropped his shoulder once to remove Asenjo from the equation, dropped his shoulder the second time to send two defenders to the floor and casually passed the ball into the back of the net to break the dead lock and eventually secure all three points.
Unfortunately, former rojiblanco Sergio Asenjo couldn’t complete the 90 minutes as he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament on his right knee after landing awkwardly. His knee will need surgery and adds to a long list of injuries that the Spaniard has accumulated over his stop start career.
The yellow submarine’s torpedoes couldn’t damage Neptune’s 11 marines and Los Rojiblancos escaped El Madrigal with all three points.
Post-game notes and quotes
“Insistence was key” – Diego Simeone
“it was an important match for the team in which we started very well.” Atleti usually burst out the traps and last night was no exception.
“Fernando, with impressive calmness and coldness.”
“We needed it, he needed it and we are all happy for the team, first, and obviously for Fernando.” El Niño’s killer instinct is clearly back from its sabbatical but Simeone was quick to shift praise back to the team.
“These three points bring us closer to our target” – Fernando Torres
“The goal was important for me and for the team which bring us closer to the objective.” Following the lead of his manager, Torres made sure the effort of the team was put before receiving plaudits for his personal effort.
“We know that for us, for the year coming, and for the club it is essential to be in the Champions League and the sooner we begin to add points and reach that goal, the better it will be for everyone.” Atleti are well on their way to securing a hat trick of automatic Champions League qualifications with that win.
“it was a tight match. It could have gone either way, there were few occasions and in the end you cannot say that us taking all three points is unfair.” Despite weathering the Villarreal storm for much of the game, Atelti had their opportunities too.
Five for the kid
Torres has five goals to his name since returning to his hometown club and his match winning goal against Villarreal was pure ecstasy for Atleticos who saw him develop into the man he is today.
His run wasn’t too dissimilar to the one he carried out away to Sevilla but this time Fer came up with the goods.
Seeing Torres returning to form in a red and white shirt is special and his input is proving invaluable as we round off another strong season.
His pace, power and passion are even more noticeable as he often comes on to the pitch to replace the binary opposite of those traits; Mandzukic.
El Niño was never re-signed to be the focal point of Atelti’s attack but rather to use his know how and finishing to wrap up games or break down the opposition and he’s fulfilling all expectations.
- Jan Oblak, also referred to by his ethnic Slovene name ‘The Cloud’ (I just made that bit up), kept another clean sheet and pulled off some unbelievable saves in the process.
- Miranda was very solid throughout the game and had to be at his best to keep out Villarreal.
- Gamez provided more reason that he should start as left back with another confident display out on his less favoured wing.