Atlético have been handed two extra chances to defeat eternal rivals Real Madrid this season after seeing off Espanyol in the Copa del Rey Round of 16.
Despite this golden opportunity to finally end the winless spell against our neighbours, one that has been haunting our club for over a decade, the story of the evening was the dazzling display put on by Sergio Agüero.
The Kun Show
In his second straight stint as the Rojiblanco captain, Agüero turned in a first half performance that was out-of-this-world extraordinary. El Kun twisted and weaved about, exhibiting his full assortment of skills that make him such an enormous pleasure to watch.
Though the White and Blues weren’t so thrilled with having to deal with our Argentine virtuouso’s exhibition, the spectators at the Cornellà-El Prat had to have been aware that they were witnessing something special.
Minutes after breaking the deadlock by scoring our crucial away goal, the 22-year-old slotted another shot past Espanyol goalkeeper Cristian Álvarez but it was disallowed for offside. Replays showed that Agüero was in fact onside and the goal should have stood.
For the remainder of the first 45 minutes, our No. 10 proceeded to make pretzels out of Espanyol’s defenders. In the second half, after getting the away goal Atleti needed, Kun turned it down a notch but still flaunted his tremendous talent in occasional bursts.
Agüero’s goal tonight took his tally on the year to 14 in 22 games, which puts him in fourth behind Cristiano Ronaldo (28), Lionel Messi (27) and Giuseppe Rossi (16) for the 2010-11 season.
El Kun once again showed the grit and determination that we have come to expect of him, and though some of us had doubts about his leadership capabilities when we discussed who should serve as captain after Simão left, he has proven that he is the best man for the role.
It will be a real shame to see him lose the armband to Forlán, especially after Cacha’s latest comments.
Quique pulled a ‘Forlán’ and was forced to clarify himself
Quique Sánchez Flores sounded like he had been taking lessons from Forlán’s publicist when he told the press ahead of the bout that “it will take another 40 years before what happened last season repeats itself.”
After offending a vast portion of the Atleti fan base with his disenchanting words, the Rojiblanco boss was quick to retract his ill-advised statement in the post-game press conference.
“When I spoke at the pre-game conference and said the phrase about the years it could take to accomplish what we did last season,what I meant was that to play in three finals in the same season is something very difficult to achieve,” he said.
Quique then vowed to continue to offer his “maximum commitment and ambition.”
Assunçao spent the night in Barcelona with a concussion
After taking a kick to the head courtesy of Espanyol defender Jordi Amat, Paulo Assunçao had to be carted off the field with a concussion. He spent the night at a clinic in Barcelona where he was kept under observation.
The blow was a powerful one, instantly bringing Paulo to the ground. The 30-year old, though visibly dazed and confused, was responsive. He never seemed to have lost consciousness. We should have more details soon with regard to his availability for our next match.
Godín and Mérida back to the bench
With Domínguez’s return to the starting line-up following his late scratch from the clash against Racing, it’s becoming even more clear now that Quique’s choice defence does not include Diego Godín.
Not so fast though. Just when you begin to detect a line-up pattern and boastfully predict Atleti’s starting XI in front of your impressed friends, Quique makes a fool out of you. Just ask Fran Mérida.
Despite a solid showing on Monday against Racing, Fran Mérida did not play a single minute against Espanyol. Mérida was warming up and had been selected by Quique to come in as our second substitution, but Assunçao’s concussion ruined things for the Catalan playmaker.
Quique had to alter his plans and called off Mérida, instead going with Koke to replace Paulo. The television cameras caught a confused Fran throwing up his arms in despair in a fit of disappointment with the snub.
The Atleti youth product did not have to intervene much in the half hour that he was on the pitch, but did just fine whenever he was involved in a play.
Reyes can’t buy a goal
In his return to the fold after his one game suspension, Reyes found himself placed on the left flank, as opposed to manning the right side that he had grown accustomed to when Quique would play him and Simão invertedly.
La Perla had a couple of clear chances to score his first goal since his season-opening Super Cup strike, but he failed to find the back of the net.
“The truth is I had it right there before me, but I couldn’t get my goal,” he told AS after the game. “It’s true that face-to-face with the goal I’m not having much luck.
“That goal that I want so badly has been eluding me.”
A signing to come?
Reports earlier this week suggested that we would only sign a winger if we qualified for the quarter-finals. Prior to yesterday’s match, Radio Marca announced that Getafe and Atlético had reached an agreement for Atleti to re-sign their youth product Manu del Moral, but officials at both clubs have since denied that claim.
We’ll keep you posted as soon as we have official word of a signing.
Stat of the day
Luis García’s last minute goal was the first one we have conceded since our match against Bayer Leverkusen over a month ago, snapping a streak of 381 minutes without allowing a goal.
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