La Liga: Celta 2 – 0 Atlético
Atleti crash to away defeat after lacklustre performance in Galicia
It was a horrible night for Atleti on Sunday evening, as they lost vital ground on title rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona after defeat by Celta de Vigo at the Balaídos.
Confidence was high in the Atleti camp after the historic 4-0 win over city rivals Real Madrid last weekend. However the pressure was on Atleti going into the game, after Real Madrid and Barcelona had already been victorious and picked up three valuable points this weekend.
With Arda Turan and Raúl Garcia unavailable due to suspension, and Koke out injured, Simeone was forced to make two changes from the team that started the Madrid derby last Saturday. In came Saúl and Fernando Torres for Arda Turan and Koke.
The trio of Griezmann, Torres and Mandzukic started together for the first time, in a big tactical switch going into the game.
Celta came into the game off the back of a draw at Real Sociedad last weekend and were lying mid-table in 11th position.
From the offset Celta started on the front foot, with Atleti not really getting out of the blocks.
Even at these early stages it was clear that Nolito was going to be a real threat for Celta coming in from the inside left position. He caused many problems for the Atleti defence, Juanfran in-particular.
For the first third of the game Celta were really on top. Their passing game was really affecting Atleti who were struggling to get out of defence and move up the pitch into attacking positions. Simeone’s frustrations were apparent on the sideline.
For all of Celta’s dominance only a few chances were created with the Danish veteran Krohl-Delhi coming closest.
As the half progressed Atleti’s sloppy passing continued and an out of sorts Tiago was one of the biggest culprits.
Just 33 minutes into the match, the out-of-sorts Tiago was replaced by Mario Suarez, after what is thought to be a recurrence of a back problem for the Portugese midfielder.
This change also saw a tactical switch from Simeone, to try and respond to Celta’s dominance. He moved into the centre of midfield, to provide more support to Gabi and Mario Suárez.
Celta completely dominated the first half but had nothing to show for it. Atleti were completely off-tempo both on and off the ball, with misplaced passes a recurring theme.
Half-time brought only a single change, with Simeone bringing in experienced midfielder Cani in place of Fernando Torres.
Simeone’s intentions were apparent with this change, as a link between the midfield and forwards was desperately needed. Griezmann was also put into his more familiar role, to try and link up more with Mandzukic.
The start of the second half was a lot more positive for Atleti as a lot more balls were played down the sides and behind the defence, trying to utilise the pace of Griezmann and the attacking potential of Siquera down the left wing.
Unfortunately though, minutes after a clear handball by Augusto Fernandez in midfield was denied, Mario Suarez fouled the lively Nolito in the box to give away a penalty to Celta.
Nolito then coolly sent Moya the wrong way and placed the ball into the right-hand corner from the spot.
In response Atleti seemed to up their tempo and a great shot from Saúl forced a great save by Celta keeper Álvarez.
The Atleti defence however was still shaken by going 1-0 down and the in-form Nolito created a great chance for the ex-Rayo forward Larrivey who somehow managed to miss the opportunity.
Atleti’s urgency to get back in the match continued as Griezmann forced another tremendous save by Álvarez to keep Celta 1-0 up.
It wasn’t long before the hosts had doubled their lead. Orellana, who was also very impressive throughout the match, pulled away from Siquiera and finished off a nice passing move from Celta with a powerful strike, low across goal to put Celta 2-0 up.
In the late moments of the game Atleti tried to revive something with a Mandzukic header coming close, however nothing materialised.
Celta nearly made it three in stoppage-time with the normally solid Atleti defence looking somewhat disheartened. Goalscorers Nolito and Orellana combined to produce a good save from Moyá.
Overall a very disappointing night for a Atleti, the gap now six points to second place Barcelona and seven to leaders Real Madrid.
However there is still a long way to go in this year’s La Liga title race. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona still have to travel to Celta, among other tough places, Atleti still have a chance.
As Simeone often says we just need to take each game one at a time.
Who did you single out as under-performing tonight? Was it a mistake starting three attackers from the word go?
|Celta Vigo||20||Atlético Madrid|
|Nolito (p) 59'|
|15 February 2015|
|Santi Mina (90')|
|F Torres (45')|
|Mario Suárez (34')|
|Raul Jiménez (73')|