Quqiue Sanchez Flores’ last home game as manager of Atlético Madrid resulted in a 2-1 win over Hércules on Sunday evening. Goals from Álvaro Domínguez and the outstanding José Antonio Reyes earned all three points for los Colchoneros as they exacted revenge on the side that had humiliated them earlier this season.
We started with a make-shift defence as Godín, Perea and Ujfalusi were all absent, meaning that youngster Jorge Pulido was awarded his la Liga debut. Our opponents were already relegated last week and had nothing to play for, which made for a very interesting and open match.
The game had barely kicked off when Atlético took the lead. Mario’s shot was blocked but fell to Álvaro Dominguez who arrived first to slot the ball into the back of the net.
The centre back celebrated his second goal of the season with all of his teammates and the coaching staff, although Quique remained seated on the bench. The coach was surprisingly calm during the match, but after the final whistle had been blown he showed great emotion as he applauded the fans, who massively thanked him for the two titles he won with the club.
After Portillo had missed a chance for Hércules we continued to attack and Juanfran came very close after Reyes put him through with a perfect pass forward, but goalkeeper Velthuizen kept out the winger’s low shot.
Some minutes later Juanfran was the provider when he delivered a cross to Koke at the far post, but the canterano’s beautifully bent shot hit the inside of both the crossbar and the post, before coming back out.
After half an hour the visitors were awarded a soft penalty kick after referee Iturraldo judged that Pulido had brought down Abraham Paz at a corner, but David de Gea pulled off a magnificent save and kept out Trezeguet’s spot kick.
Later the French forward had another opportunity to score, but he failed to react after Domínguez missed the ball and he failed to get a shot off.
Meanwhile Sergio Agüero had shot just wide after an excellent Atleti counter attack.
Hércules stretched the field which only seemed to benefit Atleti, because our four offensive players had lots of spaces to run into. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make the most of our chances. Just before the break Mario Suárez got a big opportunity to score after Juanfran squared another pass, but Mario too hit the woodwork.
At the start of the second half we lost control of the match, although the first chance was ours. Juan Valera crossed in a great ball but Agüero arrived too late to put it into the back of the net.
Hércules were getting stronger which resulted in chances for Cortés and Portillo, but Koke threw his body in the way of the former’s shot while Portillo’s beautiful free kick hit the crossbar.
In the 67th minute the old fox David Trezeguet took advantage of Pulido’s inexperience and tied the score. A corner was headed on by Juanra and the French striker shrugged off the young defender before walking the ball into the net at the far post.
Atleti were made to pay for their missed chances, but it didn’t take long for us to take the lead again. Just four minutes after the equaliser Reyes played a terrific through pass to Kun, who saw his shot blocked by Velthuizen. The ball landed at the feet of Reyes, who didn’t hesitate and volleyed it in from the edge of the area.
The goal was a reward for Reyes’ performance tonight, who put in a great shift all over the pitch and created plenty of chances for his teammates.
In the final minutes Atleti could have distanced themselves but Agüero was unfortunate in his finishing. First he curled a shot just wide and in the last seconds of the match he missed what seemed like a certain goal. Reyes squared the ball to Juanfran who only had to tap it in, but instead Kun cut out the square pass and shot wide of the post.
With tonight’s victory we’ve secured a Europa League ticket for next season.
Sevilla also won tonight while Athletic tied away at Málaga, which means all three teams now have 55 points with just one matchday left. Due to our negative head-to-head record we’ll have to hope that Sevilla (vs. Espanyol) and/or Athletic (vs. Racing) drop points next week if we want to overtake them in the league.
Line-up: De Gea; Valera, Pulido, Domínguez, Filipe; Juanfran, Mario Suárez, Tiago (“”78 Assunção), Koke (“83 Elias); Reyes (“92 Noguera) and Agüero.
Goals: 1-0 Domínguez (“2); 1-1 Trezeguet (“67); 2-1 Reyes (“71)