Saturday night’s draw at the Calderón once again proved that supporting Atlético is not for the weak of heart. In fact, the club’s membership fee comes with the added expense of 3-5 years of supporter life expectancy.
The atmosphere at the jam-packed Rojiblanco stadium was electric and both sides came ready to rumble.
With all the bodies on the floor courtesy of Mateu Lahoz’s unique-to-Spain officiating leniency, Fran Guillén of Punto Radio said the game was “like watching a Western”.
“It was a frenetic match with a great effort from my players,” Quique told the official site after the match. “We had more chances than our opponents, but were denied in front of the goal.”
One of those stops, a reflex save by Sevilla backup goalkeeper Javi Varas in the last minute, following a sneaky link-up between Tiago and Kun, kept us from snatching three points and seventh place from our bitter foes.
Fighting back to salvage the point was crucial to our chances of qualifying for the Europa League this season, but winger José Antonio Reyes, who netted the match-tying second goal against his former club, lamented Atlético’s misfortune.
“Our opponents do less than us, shoot twice and score two goals, but you have to live with that in football,” he said. “The fans have been behind us from the first day and that gives the team a kind of hope that isn’t experienced at every stadium.
“We owe the comeback to them,” Reyes admitted.
Koke starts again, scores first goal with the first team
In his 10th league appearance and second straight in the Rojiblanco starting XI, Koke added his name to the scoresheet for the first time.
The love for the 19-year-old among the Colchonero faithful is at a stratospheric level right now. The kid can simply do no wrong in the eyes of the fans.
The spectators at the Calderón voiced their disappointment with Quique for taking the home-grown talent out in the 63rd minute, a change the coach was forced to clarify in his post-match conference.
“He asked for the substitution. He had some cramps,” said Quique. “He couldn’t last any longer on the pitch.
“He’s brilliant and scored a goal thanks to his intelligence. He’s not just a patch to cover up a spot. He’s a player who has earned it. He’s worked really hard to get to where he is.”
Koke corroborated his coach’s claims, admitting to feeling fatigued shortly after the hour mark.
“I was a bit tired and the manager could see that and decided to take me off,” he said. “The ovation was incredible. I can’t explain how it felt.
“Quique congratulated me and told me to keep playing like this. I’m comfortable wherever the coach plays me, above all, here with my team, with Atleti.”
Forlán coming out of hibernation?
Diego Forlan appeared to shake off the winter doldrums, and though he didn’t manage to find the back of the net, he did find teammate Koke with a lovely, expertly-timed left-footed cross to assist the canterano.
The Uruguayan striker was reportedly enraged with his coach for deciding to take him out in the 83rd minute of his best performance of the year.
“I spoke with Forlán in the dressing room,” said Quique. “I know that he came off angry, but we needed another player with more energy.
“He understood it well. He felt good about his performance, but we’ll have to do something to break his and Kun’s goal-scoring droughts.”
Kun’s inexplicable miss
“It was a fast play,” explained Tiago after the match, referring to Kun’s baffling missed opportunity to complete the comeback in epic fashion. “The referee gave the back-pass and we had to try and take the kick quickly to score but I don’t know how the goalkeeper saved Kun’s shot.”
That puny little dribbler deflected by Varas was the last of Aguero’s four shots on target.
Question: Did Kun make a single pass to Forlán throughout the game?
Tiago sticks up for Raúl
Portuguese midfielder Tiago expressed his gratitude to the fans for their relentless support during the match, but scolded them for jeering his midfield companion Raul Garcia.
“I didn’t really like that they whistled one of my teammates. That really hurts us,” he said. “I ask the fans to always be behind us, whoever the player may be, especially one who gives his all on the pitch.”
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Juanfran accepts minimised role
“I hadn’t played in a few weeks and I really wanted to help the team,” said the former Osasuna man. “It’s clear that I’m going to be fine with minutes little-by-little because I feel good and I’m going to contribute a lot to the squad.
“It’s not easy to come to a new club and earn the affection and respect of everyone right when you arrive.”
Stat of the day
Atlético have submitted 69 different starting line-ups in the last 69 league matches; the first 14 by Abel Resino and the last 55 by Quique Sanchez Flores. The streak would’ve ended yesterday if Luis Perea had been given the nod in place of Diego Godín.