Following back-to-back wins over Osasuna and Real Sociedad, Atlético supporters entertained themselves all week long by quietly indulging in daydreams about the possibility of Champions League qualification, however far-fetched they may be.
But that fairy tale came to a grinding halt on Sunday with two goals by Espanyol striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo in a match that ended in a 2-2 draw.
Los Rojiblancos’ slim chances of a Champions League berth are now on life support, though the rest of the weekend’s Liga results were mostly favourable to Atleti’s still viable hopes of qualifying for the Europa League.
Quique laments missed opportunity
Manager Quique Sanchez Flores, who used an unchanged starting eleven in the league for the first time as Atlético boss, felt his men should’ve pulled off the triumph.
“It has been a very intense game, good for viewing, with two good teams on the playing field,” Quique told the club’s official site after the match. “But the feeling is that we were left dropping two points. The key was during that span in which it went from 1-0 to 1-1. I felt we could’ve taken better control of the game.”
When a reporter told Quique that his players at times looked like they were satisfied with securing a draw, the Rojiblanco boss responded, “It’s not true. When it was 1-0 it was evident that we weren’t in a hurry to take the corner kicks. The second half ended with us on the opposing end. There was no conformity. The best chances were ours and it’s not easy to play on Espanyol’s field and limit their goal scoring chances.
“We’re two clubs that should be in Europe but we don’t know what will happen. There are six matches left to play, but we feel good,” he said.
Koke injured after bright start
The 19-year-old midfielder scored his second goal of the season in only the 78th second of last night’s clash but, unfortunately sustained a knock that forced him off in the 40th minute. Raul Garcia came on for Koke only to completely undo the canterano’s magic.
It’s not silly at all to think that the result would’ve been better had Raul not been born, and while Koke’s stock continues to soar, Garcia’s remains exactly where it stood before the game: rock bottom.
“The injury was unlucky because I was feeling good on the pitch, but I was unable to continue,” said Koke after the match. “It was a shame that we tied because we went ahead twice and we didn’t know how to manage the lead. It was a shame, but I think a draw wasn’t so bad.”
The official site called the injury a “knee contusion,” which doesn’t sound like something that would keep him out too long. Let’s cross our fingers, pray, fast… do whatever it takes to make sure our boy is ready come Sunday.
Tiago almost scores potential match-winning goal
“Kameni put out his hand to make an incredible save of my low header late in the game, but that’s football and it was a shame because now I’m left feeling like we could’ve won the match,” Tiago told the press, referring to his late chance to put us up 3-2 that wasn’t to be.
“I feel like we’ve lost two points because we were up on them twice and we couldn’t get the win in the end,” he said. “In the first half, after our goal, we lost a little control of the game and they scored on an isolated play. We reacted well in the second half with a spectacular goal by Kun and then it was an evenly matched affair, with two teams that were looking for the victory and we ended up with a draw.”
Tiago saw his tenth yellow of the season and will miss our match against Levante with a one-match ban.
Reyes will also be suspended for our next match
Jose Antonio Reyes was booked for the fifth time and will serve an automatic suspension along with Tiago next weekend.
Reyes looked more confused and out of sorts last night than when Kun tricked him into believing that Atleti was looking to clone him back in December.
‘La Perla’ turned in quite possibly his worst performance of the season, and it seemed like he purposely got himself booked in the final minutes of the game for time-wasting. Maybe it was a smart move to make himself available for the home stretch, but Reyes doesn’t strike us as the sharpest fellow on the squad, so it very well could’ve been an unplanned move.
Kun scores in five consecutive appearances
Sergio Agüero’s goal was his sixth in his last five appearances, and he has now scored in the last five games he has played in; a feat only matched by Messi and Pedro this season.
Costa, unsung hero of first goal
Diego Costa, who was handed a third straight start on Sunday, worked harder in the first two minutes of the match than Forlán generally does in one half. The Brazilian played a crucial role in the play that led to Koke’s opening goal, cleanly slide-tackling an Espanyol defender to strip him of possession. Moments later, he joined Koke and Kun in a celebratory embrace.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s brother scouts De Gea in person
With Mundo Deportivo reporting that Atleti keeper David de Gea only has to agree to join Manchester United for a deal to be complete, it was a bit of a surprise to learn that Martin Ferguson, Sir Alex Ferguson’s brother, was in the stands at the Cornellà-El Prat, apparently there to scout the young Rojiblanco idol.
Perico goalie Kameni owned the night between the sticks though, as the 27-year-old was the one pulling off some spectacular saves, most notably, his fingertip denial of Tiago’s header.
The experienced, charming, handsome, strong Cameroon international is clearly the wiser and more affordable choice for the Red Devils to replace Edwin van der Sar, and lets hope Martin Ferguson’s notes reflect that irrefutable fact.
Stat of the day
Yesterday’s match was the first time in 106 games that Atlético used the same starting line-up in consecutive matches. The last time was on 25 August 2009 (via @infoatleti).