There had been doubts, there had been rumours and there had been a lot of frustration. But tonight Diego Forlán silenced his critics and produced a magnificent performance to hand Atlético a 3-0 victory.
Forlán was the big man today with two goals and an assist against an Osasuna side which would have scored themselves had it not been for David de Gea.
All eyes were on the Uruguayan before the game. He hadn’t scored since the 2nd round of la Liga and midweek rumours talked of a possible move away from the Vicente Calderón.
But Forlan must have enjoyed tonight more than any other night in the Calderón, with the fans chanting his nickname all night long.
This match was flooded by chances at both ends, but initially it started off without too many fireworks. It wasn’t until the 19th minute that the home supporters first lifted up, when Forlán hit the sidenetting after a one-two with Sergio Agüero.
Two minutes later Agüero missed a one-on-one with goalkeeper Ricardo, after Simão had headed on a long pass by Forlán.
But in the 27th minute Ricardo was finally beaten, down to his own mistake. He spilled an Agüero shot and Forlán arrived first on the scene to tap in the opening goal.
At that point Osasuna might very well have been ahead, but De Gea pulled off an amazing save from a Masoud header at close range. The cross was delivered by Juanfran, who was a menace for Atleti’s left backs all night and even forced Quique Sánchez Flores to take off Filipe at half time.
Masoud received another cross from Juanfran but it was blocked by Perea, while striker Aranda twice shot just over the crossbar.
In the 36th minute De Gea again saved his defence, when Aranda was allowed to dribble all the way from the corner flag up to the six yard box. His cross fell in between two Osasuna forwards and De Gea stretched to push it away from their feet.
But the last minutes of the first half were all Atlético. First Ricardo saved Tiago’s header with an impressive save, but he had no chance when Agüero doubled the lead in the 41st minute. Forlán received a long pass from Reyes and laid it on a platter for Kun to head in near the second post.
While they assisted each other’s goals, it was only the first time in eight months that Agüero and Forlán both got their names on the scoresheet.
Agüero almost doubled his tally in added time of the first half, but he wasn’t able to reach to Filipe’s cross.
The 2-0 score seemed decisive but both teams went on to attack in the second half. Three minutes after the break Agüero shot just wide of the far post.
And shortly after De Gea once again had to stop Masoud from scoring when Valera allowed the winger to come inside and shoot with his stronger right foot.
In a hectic three minutes Reyes fired just wide, while De Gea caught a Monreal volley at the other end of the pitch. The left back was then sent off for his second hand ball of the night, and Osasuna had to continue with ten men. It was the 13th red card in the last eleven games between these two sides in the Vicente Calderón.
Even with a man down Osasuna came very close to scoring. Juanfran’s shot would have been a contender for the goal of the season, but his volley whistled past the wrong side of the post.
In the 70th minute the match was finally put to bed when Forlán scored his second of the night. Simão headed the ball to the Uruguayan, who dribbled inside the box, cut to his right foot and then beautifully struck the ball into the far top corner.
Obviously Forlán has struggled these past months, but with his fifth goal of the season he equals his start from 2008/09, when he went on to score 32 goals and won the Pichichi and European Golden Shoe awards.
The last big opportunity of the match was for Mario Suárez. The canterano surprisingly started over Assunção again, but delivered a top performance tonight. He deserved a goal, but his header landed on top of the crossbar.
Line-up: De Gea; Valera, Perea, Ujfalusi, Filipe (“45 Antonio López); Reyes, Mario Suárez, Tiago (“69 Raúl García), Simão; Forlán and Agüero (“78 Fran Mérida).
Goals: 1-0 Forlán (“27); 2-0 Agüero (“41); 3-0 Forlán (“70)