With a solid though at times nerve-racking victory over Real Zaragoza at La Romareda, Atlético finally managed to stop the bleeding as they picked up just their second win of 2011.
The triumph was Atleti’s fourth on the road this season, two more than last year’s away victory total.
“Yeah, we had been looking for this,” manager Quique Sanchez Flores was quoted as saying by the club’s official site after the match. “Before there had been matches in which we played well but didn’t win. Against Zargoza, we played well and got a good result.
“This is the first stone that has to lead us back to the path that we want to be on, towards the spots near the top.”
On Saturday evening los Colchoneros slept in seventh place, but after Sunday’s league action they dropped down one spot to eighth prior to Monday’s clash between Real Sociedad and Mallorca.
Koke was impressive in 2010-11 Liga debut
No one will argue with Quique’s assessment of youth product Koke’s performance this past weekend. “I really liked how Koke played,” said Quique. “He was fantastic.
“The gamble on Koke allowed us to play better and that’s great news. This club has many young players, many players on loan, and it’s always big news when they perform well.”
The home-grown talent was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up against Zaragoza and brings to mind the stage earlier in the season when Quique gave Mario Suarez a test-drive in place of Assuncao.
The difference here was that Koke played out of position as a left-winger, but he wasn’t complaining about his role after the match.
“I’m a central midfielder, but the coach placed me on the left and told me to play with freedom, moving around the whole pitch,” he said. “I felt very comfortable. I’ll play wherever he wants me to, obviously.”
It’s too early to tell whether the coach will continue to call upon the 19-year-old midfielder on a consistent basis, but he was certainly up to the task against los Maños.
“Now I have to keep working hard to continue to earn myself the coach’s confidence,” said Koke. “He congratulated me and told me that he was happy for me. I was a bit nervous when the gaffer told me that I was going to start, but I focused on the match and on playing as well as I could to help the team tally the three points.”
Domínguez returns to the fold
Central defender Alvaro Dominguez was finally handed a chance to shake off some of the dust he had accumulated while riding the bench these past few weeks. Though the back line secured the clean sheet, the 21-year-old appeared rusty at times, perhaps most notably when he resorted to tugging at Braulio’s shirt when the former Atleti man shuffled past him and was about to break through to goal. Dominguez was booked for the infraction.
Quique was pleased with what he saw from the youngster though. “Domínguez was solid and serious as always,” he said.
“I try to perform as well as I can in each game and I feel proud to wear this jersey,” said Alvaro after the game.
Kun ends eight-game scoring drought in league play
Prior to his match-winner on Saturday, Sergio Aguero hadn’t scored in his previous seven visits to La Romareda.
The goal against Zaragoza, his eighth in league play and 15th overall in the 2010-11 season, put an end to his eight-game scoring drought in the domestic competition. The Argentine virtuoso’s last league goal had come against Deportivo way back on 11 December.
Kun was replaced by Diego Costa following a vicious challenge from Ponzio in the 83rd minute. The knock was reported as a right thigh contusion by the club’s official site. The severity of the injury is unclear, but doesn’t appear to be anything serious and we expect Aguero to be available for the clash against Sevilla.
Antonio López gets 100th victory
The win over Zaragoza was Rojiblanco captain Antonio Lopez’s 100th in his Spanish Primera División career.
Juanfran and Elias regretting moves?
Saturday’s starting XI was entirely composed of players available to us last year. The five major reinforcements of the campaign, Merida, Godin, Filipe, Elias and Juanfran, not to mention the players brought back home in Diego Costa and Mario Suarez, have all failed to cement a spot in the line-up.
Roughly €35m was spent in transfer fees this year in order to decorate the bench.
Running the gauntlet
Atleti now embark on a daunting six-game stretch that includes visits from Sevilla, Villarreal and Real Madrid, and trips to Getafe, Almería and Osasuna.
This time around, los Rojiblancos will want to improve on the 7 out of a possible 18 points they were able to take from those opponents in the first half of season.
Stat of the day
This fateful stat was released by Opta Sports ahead of our ninth clean sheet of the campaign: Atlético have conceded fewer goals per game (0.88) without the suspended Godín than with him (1.6) in the league this season.