Atlético did their European hopes a world of good on Sunday evening, beating an in-form Levante side by four goals to one in an entertaining encounter at the Vicente Calderon.
Like last week, Atlético again started off the match strongly, but failed to hold on to their lead. But a superb second half performance saw off Levante, who now have to give up their challenge for the European spots.
In the first twenty minutes we pinned Levante down in their half and put pressure on their defence, which resulted in the opening goal from Elias.
The Brazilian curled in a magnificent freekick from the edge of the box, which would have gone in even without taking a slight deflection.
The dead ball was a result of one of Levante’s many bad challenges, as they tried to interrupt Atleti’s play with numerous fouls, kicks and pushes. Fortunately for Atlético referee Estrada Fernández was strict and not afraid to book the offenders.
He also didn’t hesitate for a single second in the 38th minute when Mario Suárez brought down Felipe Caicedo inside the box. Mario should have known better than to come in from behind and although he seemed to play the ball Estrada Fernández pointed to the spot. Caicedo himself converted the penalty kick and put the scores level.
Although this was only Levante’s first opportunity one could have seen the goal coming, as Atleti allowed Levante to grow into the match at the end of the first half. Despite our dominance early on we failed to create many opportunities. Only Elias had two good chances to score, while goals by Agüero and Diego Costa were correctly flagged offside.
The first chance in the second half was for Jefferson Montero who dribbled past two defenders before forcing De Gea to make an outstanding save.
Only minutes after the break it was Agüero who gave Atlético a new lead. The captain saw his shot from outside the box blocked by two Levante defenders but then struck the rebound with incredible accuracy and force, leaving Munúa without a chance.
After the goal the match opened up with chances on either side. First it was Caicedo who had a good opportunity to tie the score again, but his attempt went well wide of De Gea’s goal.
Some minutes later Mario Suárez brilliantly set up Agüero and Diego Costa, but together they couldn’t get the ball in as Javi Venta slid in with a last ditch tackle. And shortly after Diego Costa messed up another opportunity created by Agüero, before Filipe tried a difficult lob over the goalkeeper which ended on top of the goal.
But Atleti’s third goal was inevitable and it arrived when Ballesteros tripped Diego Costa inside the box and the referee awarded the second penalty kick of the night. Agüero calmly converted the spot kick and not only scored his first ever penalty for Atlético, but also tied Diego Forlán’s tally of 96 goals for the club.
To emphasize his great form: Kun has now scored in each of his last six consecutive matches to make it 23 for the season.
Levante’s Valdo got a big opportunity from a header, but the final word was Atleti’s as we scored a fourth goal in the 84th minute. Raúl García headed on a corner from Elias near the first post and Munúa, caught out of position, unfortunately pushed the ball into the net of his own goal.
Diego Forlán, who played the last twenty minutes, had an opportunity to make matters even worse for the visitors, but his toe-poke went past the wrong side of the post.
In the final minutes Quique allowed B-team player Alberto Noguera to make his first team debut for Atlético as he replaced the excellent Elias. The Brazilian and captain Agüero were nothing short of brilliant for Atlético tonight, as we convincingly beat a direct rival for European football next season.
Atleti has now lost only one of the last ten matches, as they travel to A Coruña next week to take on Deportivo in round 34 of La Liga.
Line-up: De Gea; Ujfalusi, Perea, Domínguez, Filipe; Juanfran (“72 Forlán), Mario Suárez (“81 Assunção), Raúl García, Elias (“85 Noguera); Agüero and Diego Costa.
Goals: 1-0 Elias (“19); 1-1 Caicedo (p.k.)(“39); 2-1 Agüero (“50); 3-1 Agüero (p.k.)(“70); 4-1 Munúa o.g. (“84)