La Liga: Málaga 0 – 1 Atlético
Koke keeps Atleti top of La Liga
A strike by Koke, who was the first player in Spain to score in the new year, made the difference between Málaga and Atlético Madrid on Saturday afternoon.
The Rojiblancos didn’t play their most exciting match of the season, but will be top of La Liga for at least another week with a clash against Barcelona at the Vicente Calderón coming up.
Perhaps it was that game against the Catalans which made Atleti a less aggressive side against Málaga, with Arda, Filipe, Juanfran and Koke all risking suspension.
Atleti did control the match but struggled to create opportunities. They weren’t helped by Bernd Schüster, who lined up five defenders in a conservative 5-4-1 formation. Strikers David Villa and Diego Costa were hardly involved and with Koke filling in for suspended captain Gabi there was nobody to link up our midfield and attack. Óliver Torres was handed a start by Simeone, but was taken off by his coach at half time.
Atleti’s biggest opportunity in the first half was an individual effort by Juanfran, who skipped past two defenders before firing at Willy Caballero. At the other end there were attempts by Welligton, Eliseu and Samuel, none of which caused any problems to Thibaut Courtois. In fact, it was Filipe Luís who formed the biggest threat for the Belgian ‘keeper when the left back nearly headed it past his team mate.
After the break it took until the hour mark before the game came to life. Substitutes Cebolla and Adrián provided a spark with their direct running at the compact Málaga defence.
Adrián should have opened the scoring in the 60th minute when he received a great pass by Costa, but the Asturian made a mess of his opportunity and allowed a defender to intervene.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Atleti took the lead. During a quick break the ball ended up with Diego Costa, who twisted and turned inside the box and slipped a through ball to Adrián. Willy rushed from his line to block the forward, but the loose ball ended up before the feet of Koke who calmly slotted it into the goal to make it 1-0.
It was the first goal of 2014 and Koke’s 4th of the season. Amazingly all of Atlético’s goals this campaign were scored inside the box, Diego Costa being the last one to score from further away when he beat Diego López in the Copa del Rey final last season.
After the goal Schüster took off one of his three centre backs to bring on an extra forward, which caused Simeone to introduce Alderweireld. Despite the pressure mounting Atleti held on quite comfortably. There was a little scare when Courtois missed an interception, but the ensuing attempt from Sergio Sánchez was blocked as Atleti held on to their lead and another clean sheet.
The one negative from the game would be Juanfran’s yellow card, which means the right back will miss next week’s thriller against Barça.
|04 January 2014|
|Santa Cruz (66')|