La Liga: Atlético 1 – 1 Valencia
Atleti miss the chance to close gap on top-two after finishing a draw
Atlético Madrid missed the opportunity to go within five points of the top of the table after they played out a 1-1 draw with Valencia on Sunday evening.
Despite taking the lead midway through the first half, a late defensive lapse for Atleti handed a point to Valencia, who keep up the chase for third with the home side.
Diego Simeone chose to start with Fernando Torres up front alongside Raúl García, fuelling rumours of a falling out with summer signing Mario Mandzukic. The Croatian started the second successive game on the bench, despite the absence of fellow arrival Antoine Griezmann through suspension.
Also returning to the starting line-up was Koke, who hadn’t featured from the beginning since his injury in February’s 4-0 win over Real Madrid.
Cholo’s decision to start Torres looked justified from the start. El Niño ran himself into the ground for the entirety of the first half, chasing down the ball and fighting to create opportunities.
The Spaniard had fire in his eyes, which can’t be said of some of the players in our recent performances. Torres almost took it a bit too far in the 17th minute however, as he plunged his elbow into the face of Otamendi, and was lucky to not pick up a red card.
It was fortunate for Atleti too, as Torres was involved in the set up of the opening goal. A free-kick floated in from Gabi was headed on by Torres and chested down by Tiago. And who was waiting outside the box ready to drive it into the back of the net? The returning maestro, Koke.
The canterano’s strike hit 95 kilometres an hour as it flew past Diego Alves in the Valencia goal, and it ended Atlético Madrid’s run of 275 minutes without scoring.
Despite the goal, it was a half of few chances and many fouls. The referee dished out 11 yellow cards all game, on what was a scrappy night in Madrid.
The biggest chance of the night fell to Tiago in the 70th minute. A corner whipped in from Gabi looked to be going out, but Diego Godín managed to get his head on it and pull it back to the Portugese midfielder. Tiago leaned back, got his foot on it but could only send the ball crashing up into the crossbar from less than three yards out.
An excruciating miss, especially considering what happened next.
Moyá, after almost getting caught out in no-mans land if it wasn’t for a Juanfran intervention a few minutes before, could arguable be at fault for the Valencia equaliser, but it was a tough cross to deal with.
A free kick on the left hand side was whipped in by Parejo, and looked set to loop over Moyá into the back of the net. Our goalkeeper got his hand to it and palm it back into play, where a waiting Mustafi was on hand to head the ball into an open goal despite a challenge from Siqueira.
Not undeserved when you look at the possession, but with their only real chance of the night bundled into the back of the net, it must go down as a poor defensive lapse for Atleti.
Despite Mario Mandzukic and Raúl Jiménez both joining the game to try and regain the lead, neither had any real effect on the match.
In fact, Mandzukic has done the team a favour by picking up his fifth booking of the season almost instantly after coming on. Not because Atleti won’t miss him, but because it will spare Simeone a decision, as he will miss the next match against Espanyol through suspension.
With the yellow cards in double digits, it wasn’t surprising that the game finished without it’s full quota of plauers. Javi Fuego was sent off in stoppage time for two bookings in as many minutes after fouls on Raúl Jiménez.
In the end it was a disappointing night for Atleti. The opportunity to close the gap on the league leaders has passed them by, and it remains to be seen if they will get another one.
Do you blame Moyá for the equaliser? Should Oblak be given a chance? Is this a point gained or two points dropped?
|Koke 33'||Mustafi 78'|
|08 March 2015|
|F Torres (61')|
|Raúl Jiménez (81')|