La Liga: Villarreal 1 – 1 Atlético
An own-goal draw against fourth-place Villarreal seems a deserved result for an exhausted Atleti
We witnessed a strange match at El Madrigal on Sunday evening. Strange for those familiar with Atleti’s playing style, that is. The Rojiblancos’ usual intensity and dominance were subdued by the combination of starter absences, dull performances from our top players, and a very solid Villarreal, who are probably the strongest side we have faced so far this season in a league match.
A point on the road at the always difficult El Madrigal, in any case, should not be deemed a poor reward. The club in fourth place on the Liga table proved tonight why they are a serious contender for a Champions League spot, and that the praise they have received since their return to the top flight is merited.
The match started well for the visiting outfit, with the Colchoneros quickly receiving an unexpected gift. Juanfran, who was very active all night, got past his defender and crossed a ball towards Koke, who tried to head it in goal. Mario Gaspar was an instant quicker, however, yet managed the same outcome in an unsuccessful attempt to deflect the cross.
Far from from feeling the dent in the Submarine hull, Cani commanded the yellow outfit in an electric first half with two periods of intense activity in Thibaut’s domain. Cani himself, and Bruno Soriano, would soon challenge our keeper, though nothing came of the attempts.
Towards the end of the first half, and with a poor Atleti only able to produce one shot from Villa, Villarreal pushed for the equaliser with back to back shots from Cani, Pina, and Mario, keeping Thibaut busy.
Atleti’s midfield was unable to prevent Villarreal from being more dominant all night long, and the home side produced a constant flow of plays close to Atleti’s box. Fortunately, the hosts were not effective in transforming offensive presence into shots on target, and that’s what very likely saved the day for Atlético. The usual added-value of the fullbacks was hardly felt tonight, as Juanfran was kept busy defending, and Insúa still lacking Filipe’s offensive power.
The second half saw Atleti go from bad to worse, particularly in midfield, where Raúl García’s recent offensive edge was nowhere to be seen. Tiago felt the blow of having to play the full match, and all four midfielders were conditioned by relatively early (and awkward) bookings that added caution to their game on a night when caution should have given way to strength and determination.
Cholo made one of the few, rare, mistakes that we can recall this season by delaying substitutions too much. He did not give playing time to two of the three midfielders he had on the bench, with only Arda Turan coming in for Raúl García. Without his usual icebreaker, Cebolla Rodríguez, Simeone made no further moves. He doesn’t seem to feel that Óliver is prepared for nights like tonight, and Guilavogui has yet to win his confidence. Another sign that Diego is sorely needed?
When many of us thought we would get away with a not-very-deserved victory, Villarreal pounded down on our worn-out defence once more. With ten minutes to go, Alderweireld was flaky in cutting Perbet’s advance, and Miranda didn’t prevent the rival from crossing towards Uche. Juanfran tried to kick the ball to the corner, but netted it instead.
The resuIt is probably fair, if truth be told. And it is an excellent sign of ambition and growth to feel upset over reaping a fantastic point on the road against the fourth-placed team in La Liga. Simeone’s ambition is now ours, and we know our team will never give up the fight, no matter who we play or where. Though the results may not be what we hope for every time, the team will surely give it their best. And that alone is a huge improvement.
|Mario Gaspar (o.g.) 2'||Juanfran (o.g.) 79'|
|10 November 2013|
|Hernán Pérez (61')|
|Jonathan Pereira (74')|
|Trigueros Muñoz (60')|
|Javier Aquino (61')|
|Raúl García (62')|
|Diego Costa (83')|