La Liga: Atlético 3 – 0 Almería
Rojiblancos return to winning ways as deadly duo hit stride
Mario Mandzukic scored from the spot and twice set up Antoine Griezmann to secure a 3-0 win for Atlético against Almería on Saturday evening.
After a surprise defeat in Galicia at the hands of Celta Vigo last week, Diego Simeone got the response he would’ve wanted from his team, who sent out a positive message ahead of their Champions League trip to Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.
Having lost ground on the top two, the red and whites were boosted ahead of kick-off with the news that Barcelona had been beaten at home to Málaga, and could have no excuses not to pick up all three points and close the gap on the team they pipped to the title last season.
Just one change was made to the team, Arda Turan returning from suspension to take Fernando Torres’ place in the line-up. Almería were coming in on a good run of form, one that has moved them five points clear of the relegation zone.
However, their hopes of exploiting the home side following a bad result did not last long, as Atleti came flying out of the traps in the Calderón.
Mandzukic and Griezmann caused an untold amount of problems against Real Madrid in the last game here two weeks ago, and continued to show their potency and wreak havoc with the Andalusian’s backline.
It was the Frenchman who had the first shot of the game, but after effortlessly taking Miguel Ángel Moyá’s long punt forward out of the air, couldn’t quite angle his left-footed drive into the top corner.
The deadline was broken shortly after though, and in controversial fashion. Last week we were subjected to a questionable penalty decision in Balaídos, but got the rub of the green this time round as referee Mateu Lahoz pointed to the spot for a push on Godín.
Up stepped Mario Mandzukic and he made no mistake, sending goalkeeper Julian the wrong way and taking his total for the season to 20 in all competitions.
The Croatian striker has gone from strength to strength in recent matches, and at this rate is on course to match some of the numbers of his more heralded predecessors of season’s past.
His partner in crime isn’t doing too badly either, and before the half-hour mark, Mandzukic twice turned provider as Antoine Griezmann made the game safe in rampant style.
Since the turn of the year, the summer signing from Real Sociedad has been irresistable in front of goal, and scored what is becoming a trademark goal on 20 minutes.
After Mandzukic had won the ball just inside Almería half, Griezmann made the run, collected the return and swept the ball home having burned the visitor’s defence with his pace.
The finish was quite something, side-footed and oozing confidence and class, and the second wasn’t bad either.
Saúl, impressive in midfield and really starting to stamp his authority on the team, won the ball on the edge of the box to start the move, and found Arda. The Turk crossed for Mandzukic to nod down, and in nipped Antoine Griezmann again ahead of the ‘keeper.
Sharp as a razor, our number seven controlled, turned and fired the ball into the bottom corner before anyone else even had time to react. 17 for him now in all, 14 in La Liga.
Atleti were in full control, and having come out full of intensity and intent, were now able to take the more conservatice approach and play with the Champions League in mind.
In truth, the game lost it’s edge after the break, but the team never looked focus, and proved that the Celta defeat was out of the system and no more than a one-off slip.
To their credit, Almería did continue until the final whistle and had a few efforts at goal, but our backline were on their game, and kept an important clean sheet after some questions were raised last week.
Miguel Corona came the closest, but saw a well controlled drive fly inches past Moyá’s right-hand post. Up at the other end, substitute Raúl García and the impressive Saúl came close to putting the gloss on a deserved win.
Before the final whistle, the result was slightly soured as Guilherme Siqueira saw red for an accumulation of yellow cards, one that would rule him out of next week’s vital match away at Sevilla.
Mateu Lahoz adjudged him to have handballed, but replays showed the ball quite clearly hit his chest, so with an appeal you would expect the decision to be overturned.
3-0 it ended, and a great way to warm up for the return of European football and the crucial end of season run-in.
|Mandzukic (p) 13'|
|21 February 2015|
|Raúl García 64'|
|Mario Suárez 71'|
|Wellington Silva 71'|