Copa del Rey: Atlético 2 – 2 L’Hospitalet (agg 5-2)
Atleti through to last 16 and set up tie with Real Madrid
Atlético Madrid have booked their place in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey, after an entertaining 2-2 draw with L’Hospitalet at the Vicente Calderón on Thursday evening.
Already 3-0 from the first leg, and with one foot already in the last 16, Atleti went into tonight’s game with the Catalan Segunda B side knowing that an efficient performance, if not an outstanding one, was needed in order to finish the job.
Two goals from Mario Mandzukic made progression a certainty, despite a draw on the night, and Atlético now face a two-legged affair with Real Madrid in order to reach the quarter-finals of this year’s Copa del Rey.
It was a match that saw Koke captain Atlético for the very first time – and a surprise it was to see the canterano start after featuring in almost every one of Atleti’s games this season.
Also in the starting XI was Mario Mandzukic, thrust into the lineup after Alessio Cerci was sent to hospital for scans following a thigh injury in training.
Things didn’t start off in typical Koke fashion. The first couple of set-pieces hardly looked threatening, with the third falling straight into the arms of Craviotto, the L’Hospitalet goalkeeper.
Mandzukic, though, was his usual self, and got his goal in the 19th minute after a little bit of fortune for Atleti.
A Mario Suárez shot on goal deflected off of the defender and rolled into the path of our number nine, who wrong footed the keeper to make it 1-0 to Atleti, his 13th goal of the season.
The Croation almost turned creator soon afterwards, but a well-worked cross into the Mexican Raúl Jiménez was headed straight at the grateful Catalan goalkeeper.
L’Hospitalet did threaten with the ball on occasion, but not enough to worry the Spanish champions.
Their best chance came from an Oblak fumble. The Slovenian goalkeeper made a mess of a cross from the right hand side, but was lucky to see the ball ricochet into the path of an Atlético defender.
While it was a calm half for Atleti, it certainly wasn’t a clean one. There were a couple of reckless challenges in the eyes of the referee, notably from Cristian Rodriguez who was booked for a tackle early on.
Mandzukic also went into the book after using his arm to fend off an opponent, whilst Koke was lucky to escape the book after swinging an arm in retaliation.
Raúl Jiménez, given a rare start this evening, came close to making it 2-0 before the referee blew for half-time, but Craviotto came out bravely to stop an acrobatic attempt at goal from the Mexican.
The second half was much of the same, but it was in the last 30 minutes that the game came to life.
Despite a Raúl Jiménez shot that should have been put away, nothing really happened in the opening 15 of the second period, which is in stark contrast to how Atleti usually begin the second half, after a jeer up from Simeone.
Koke was involved in almost making it 2-0. An excellent long free kick curled beautifully to Saúl at the far post, but the young Spaniard’s cross was ahead of the rest of his team-mates.
The second goal of the game did come shortly afterwards, and it went to the part-timers.
Cristian Rodriguez gave the ball away on the edge of his own box, and it found its way to Alcaraz. The midfielder put his foot through the ball and took a deflection off of Saúl, looping over a helpless Jan Oblak who could do very little as the ball sailed over him into the back of the net.
L’Hospitalet weren’t level for very long though, and it was our dynamic duo that combined to restore Atleti’s lead. Another excellent Koke assist, this time a deep cross in to Mario Mandzukic, who used his experience to pull away from the defender and drill home a header unmarked. 2-1.
The best goal of the night was the last one – and it went again to that man Alcaraz for L’Hospitalet. A pass to the midfielder looked to post no threat, before he let loose an unstoppable shot from all of 30 yards. It swerved twice in the air, cofounding Oblak, before it crashed off the underside of the bar and into the back of the net.
Very much like the first, there was nothing Oblak could have done. It was an unstoppable strike.
The tie finished with Atleti going through, but the match could easily have ended in a shock 3-2 win for L’Hospitalet. It took an excellent save from Oblak in the closing stages to spare Atleti’s blushes, after a corner kick from the visitors made its way through four red and white shirts. It was eventually met by the chest of Keita, the Atleti sub, but our Slovenian goalkeeper prevented the own-goal.
The Catalans can go home with their heads held high after two stunning goals. Atleti, a little disinterested on the night, will have to regain their focus for the trip to San Mames on Sunday. Los Rojiblancos are now three matches without a win.
What did you make of our performance? Are we wasting our time with Raúl Jiménez? Do you blame Oblak?
|Atlético Madrid (5)||22||L'Hospitalet (2)|
|Mandzukic 19'||Alcaraz 67'|
|Mandzukic 74'||Alcaraz 84'|
|Copa del Rey - R32 - 2nd Leg|
|18 December 2014|
|Carlos Ramos (85')|