The meeting between La Liga’s two most in-form sides resulted in Atlético Madrid being brought back down to earth with a thump, after they were thrashed 3-0 at home against 15th placed Málaga on Saturday evening.
Atleti were second to every ball, lost out on all their challenges and were constantly chasing the heels of the Málaga forwards. If the Rojiblancos are a Jekyll and Hyde team then tonight we saw the uninspired and idealess face of the beast.
Although our players failed to impress massively tonight, some credit must also be given to the visiting team. Málaga have a very creative trio of Seba Fernández, Júlio Baptista and Duda all backing up the excellent José Salomón Rondón.
The quartet caused Atleti all sorts of problems. Early on we escaped after Júlio Baptista and Seba got in each other’s way and ruined a perfect chance for Málaga.
Things were getting increasingly difficult when Luis Perea had to come off through injury. The first report from our medical staff indicates that he has pulled his hamstring, which most likely means that the season is over for the Colombian.
In the 29th minute, Málaga got the goal they deserved, when Rondón beat De Gea with a powerful header from close range. Our defence failed to close down Jesús Gámez and allowed him to cross perfectly, while Diego Godín seemed unaware of Rondón’s position.
Several minutes later Júlio Baptista, again from a header, doubled their lead. The Boquerones surprised our defence with a quick break and Seba Fernández found Baptista at the far post, without a defender in sight.
At that point Atleti had created very little. The only chance came for Elias early on. Raúl García whipped in a nice ball over the top, but when the Brazilian tried to control the ball he slipped and lost possession.
One minute before the break Agüero finally recorded our first shot of the match, but it went wide of Caballero’s goal.
In the second half Quique Sánchez Flores tried to turn things around by bringing on Koke and, later in the half, Diego Forlán.
Despite one header by Godín the visitors held on comfortably. At one point Atleti were playing with four forwards, but there was no chemistry between the players, let alone any idea of how to collectively bring down the defensive wall Málaga had put up.
The only thing Caballero had to worry about were shots from distance by Reyes and Forlán, each of which he held on to without breaking a sweat. At the other end Málaga created very little, knowing they had completed the job before the break. Rondón did get one more chance when he skipped easily past Ujfalusi and Godín, but he lost his balance just as he was about to finish.
In the 85th minute Enzo Maresca replaced the Venezuelan striker and the midfielder scored within twenty seconds of coming onto the pitch. Baptista latched onto a ball from midfield, and although De Gea did well to stop his shot, the rebound fell before the feet of Maresca who slotted it into the empty net.
Atleti couldn’t even manage a consolation goal, because Caballero kept us out with two brilliant saves in the last minute of the game. First he stopped Diego Costa’s close range header after a lovely assist by Filipe and then the ‘keeper pulled off another save to stop Forlán’s rebound.
Atleti might have been the best team in the league throughout April, but the new month couldn’t have started any worse.
Line-up: De Gea; Ujfalusi, Perea (“21 Domínguez), Godín, Filipe; Reyes, Mario Suárez, Raúl García (“60 Forlán), Elias (“46 Koke); Agüero and Diego Costa.
Goals: 0-1 Rondón (“29); 0-2 Baptista (“35); 0-3 Maresca (“84)