La Liga: Atlético 1 – 0 Villarreal
Narrow victory keeps Atleti top of la Liga
Atletico Madrid narrowly beat Villarreal through an early Raul Garcia header to keep Simeone’s men at the summit of the table and firmly in charge of the title race.
The starting eleven for Atleti featured the Belgian international Alderweireld who replaced Miranda in the centre of defence. Mario Suarez and Diego marshalled the centre of the midfield for the suspended Gabi and Tiago, who started on the bench. Cristian Rodriguez and Villa were also included. Villarreal were without key players such as Dos Santos, Uche and Musacchio.
Apart from an early attack by Villarreal in the opening stages of the match, the Valencian side employed a laid back approach to the game and allowed Atleti the majority of possession.
Diego couldn’t replicate his wonder strike against Barcelona in the 3rd minute as he blazed the ball over the bar after he received a lofted ball from Koke from a corner. Koke’s corners proved too much to handle for Villarreal as Raul Garcia nodded in from close range to make it one nil for the Madrid side. Garcia, acting as captain for the game, grabbed his 16th goal in the league whilst Koke gained his 13th assist.
Atleti cruised to half time with the lead and a comfortable amount of possession. Alderweireld and Godin were impenetrable at the back as Villarreal, without their main goal threats, seemed teeth less up front.
Villarreal came out the second half the sharper team though as fatigue began to become apparent amongst the Atletico Madrid players. David Villa’s 51st minute shot was one of the few moments when Villarreal weren’t on the ball pressurizing. Tiago replaced Cristian Rodriguez in the 56th and Adrian came on for Villa a few minutes later. Due to the domination of Villarreal, Tiago was resigned to defensive duties whilst Adrian did his best to chase down loose balls and make himself an outlet.
Jose Sosa came on for Diego in the 70th minute who, 7 minutes later cut past three Villarreal defenders and managed to scramble the ball to Tiago who could only shoot wide of the goal. On loan goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo had little to deal with in the twilight stages of the match as Villarreal applied more and more pressure on the home side. The ‘Yellow Submarines’ saw a lack of yellow over the course of the game as referee Gil Manzano seemed to miss a number of bookable offences committed by the away side, but did produce the card three times for Atletico (Koke, Suarez and Garcia).
Atletico Madrid looked to hold onto their slender lead to the last as they were forced back deeper and deeper into their own half. Diego Simeone tried to rouse the crowd from the touchline in an effort to inspire his team to an important victory. Villarreal came close to stealing a point in the 89th minute as Alderwiereld almost scored an own goal as he deflected a cross out for a corner. Had it gone in, the Belgian would’ve stopped his compatriot Courtois from securing his 17th clean sheet in La Liga.
With the final whistle came the 3 points which kept Atleti at the top of La Liga with 6 games to go. After many games in quick succession and without key players like Arda, Costa and Gabi, the result highlighted the resilience within the squad and desire to keep fighting. Atletico return to the Vicente Calderon in 4 days’ time as they prepare to face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.
|Raúl García 14'|
|05 April 2014|
|C. Rodríguez (57')|
|Moi Gómez (81')|