La Liga: Atlético 3 – 1 Malaga
Atleti run out winners after a good afternoon's work
Atlético Madrid earned a comfortable 3-1 win over Malaga on Saturday afternoon at the Vicente Calderón, after a match that saw them rarely get out of second gear.
Returning to league action after the international break, Atleti needed a win after a disappointing loss a fortnight ago against managerless Real Sociedad.
Atleti had the first chance of the game early on, where a Griezmann cross found it’s way through to Mario Mandzukic. The Croatian couldn’t do enough to make contact, and the ball rolled wide of Kameni’s post.
There were ten minutes or so with very few chances, with both sides just feeling their way into the game. The stage for this afternoon’s match was a packed Calderón, and you could hear both sets of fans trying to get behind their team.
The visitors had brought a fair few fans to Madrid from the coast, and they were in good voice. However, it was the home side that took the lead first.
Juanfran found himself with the ball on the right flank, and after some good footwork to beat the Malaga defender, he fired a cross into the area. Turan faked a shot but let it roll on through to Koke, who hammered it towards goal. It may have struck an arm on the way through, and eventually out for a corner.
And with Atleti, sometimes a corner is better than a penalty.
The resulting set-piece was whipped by Koke to the near post, and it was Tiago, the first man, that headed home with just twelve minutes on the clock. He beat his man and fired a bullet header hit with such force that Kameni could only palm it into the back of the net.
Most of the attacking play was coming from the trio of Arda Turan, Mario Mandzukic and the returning Antoine Griezmann, who made his first start for Atleti since the 4-2 victory over Cordoba three weeks ago.
There were concerns about Arda early on, when the Turk received a boot to the face from Vitorino Antunes. The ref did nothing. After some treatment for a bloody nose, our number 10 was cleared to continue.
Malaga had very little threat in the first half, pinging in a number of lazy crosses and poor through balls.
They weren’t great defensively either. Some pressure from the Atlético front line made them give the ball away, but Atleti couldn’t put away the chance.
Another chance involving our front two came just a few minutes later. Griezmann chased after a through ball and managed to pass to Ansaldi. The Argentine crossed it but Mandzukic, after heading it down, couldn’t get a shot off.
It wasn’t long before Atleti had their second goal though, and it came after a lovely move combining three of our forwards.
A free-kick was hit long to Arda on the right wing, and he played an excellent give-and-go with Mandzukic. After getting the ball back, Arda then played a perfect low cross-field pass low through to Griezmann, who was in the perfect position to tap the ball into the back of the net. 2-0 to Atleti.
The second half heralded a little more of a threat from Malaga – and they would have had a goal back if it wasn’t for a poor finish that never really troubled Moya in the Atleti goal.
Atleti had replaced Mandzukic, who had been kicked and shoved all afternoon, with Raul Jimenez early in the second half, and it was the Mexican who had the next best opportunity.
An excellent cross from our left-back, Ansaldi, found the head of Jimenez in a perfect position only six yards out, but our new recruit could only head the ball straight into the hands of Kameni, the Malaga goalkeeper. Any direction left or right and it would have meant a certain goal, and a massive confidence boost to Jimenez.
He came close to giving Atleti a three goal lead only a few minutes later, after an Ansaldi cross was met again by Jimenez. But not the first time, Jimenez shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Atleti were punished for failing to convert their chances, and were given a lesson in how to finish 20 minutes into the second half.
Castillejo, after being fed the ball from an unmarked Camacho in midfield, burst down the left wing and wasn’t closed down well enough. He fired a looping cross to the back post, which seemed to have too much power, but an excellent first-time finish from Roque Santa Cruz sent the ball into the roof of Moya’s net, and gave Malaga a lifeline.
It was a bit nervy from then on, and Atlético could have done with Jimenez restoring their two goal lead. However the Mexican’s shot was poor, again straight at a waiting Kameni, after a Griezmann cross.
Malaga almost equalised a few minutes later, after some poor Atleti defending, but safe hands from Moya helped Atleti breathe again.
The odds shifted in Atleti’s favour again when Samu Garcia was sent off for a second yellow card. The latest coming after a push on Raul Jimenez, which probably didn’t warrant a booking.
Griezmann had another couple of opportunities before he departed the game. The first came after Kameni fluffed an Ansaldi cross, but the young Frenchman could only slam the ball into the side netting, despite Godin calling for a pass in the middle.
Just a minute later, Griezmann had another chance, but he decided to roll the ball into the path of Raul Jimenez. The Mexican had stopped running though, expecting Griezmann to shoot, and the ball rolled out to the wing out of danger.
The nail in Malaga’s coffin did come seven minutes before the end of the game. It was Kameni again who made a bit of a meal of an Atleti cross – this time from Juanfran. He spilled the ball into the path of Tiago, who did well to loop the ball over everyone to the back post, where a waiting Diego Godín headed the ball into the back of the net from pretty much the goal line.
Diego Simeone went balistic, celebrating in front of the fans jumping up and down. It looked to be a game that Atleti, despite not really getting out of second gear, were starting to worry about. The third goal settled all of the nerves and los Rojiblancos calmly saw the game out.
Our captain Gabi received a second yellow card three minutes before the end, and was given his marching orders. This means he’ll miss next weekend’s game against Deportivo.
All in all a good win for Atlético – and attention will turn to Olympiakos at home midweek.
|Tiago 12'||Santa Cruz 64'|
|Estadio Vicente Calderón|
|22 November 2014|
|Arda Turan (87')|
|Raul Jimenez (57')|
|Raul Garcia (87')|
|M Torres (62')|
|L Alberto (86')|