Atletico Madrid shut down Cordoba on Saturday afternoon in a 4-2 victory; their fourth consecutive win, which sees then slide up a few places in the La Liga table.
Atleti dominated throughout the game, although the first half was quiet. There were plenty of chances on Atleti’s part, but no goals – until the 43rd minute when Siquiera was taken down, resulting in a deadly Koke corner-kick opportunity. I don’t mind admitting (mostly because I turned out to be right) that I said aloud, “Something’s going to happen now.”
Atleti’s first-half domination set up that expectation and they didn’t disappoint.
Sure enough, Griezmann was ready for the moment. It was a bit of an odd goal which seemed to have an additional angle to it and in my house there was debate on whether it was an own goal from Cordoba’s Luis Delgado, but Griezmann got the credit.
Atleti went into the break 1-0 up, which would have felt good for the players, but Diego Simeone would have urged them to do more.
Once the second half started it was clear that Cordoba had been given the same message, and Nabil Ghilas, who was clearly ready while Juanfran was not, headed in a goal after 54 minutes. The cavernous dissapointment on Simeone’s face told it all: Atletico are not prolific goalscorers and a 1-0 result would have been a typical Atletico scoreline (like last week’s 1-0 win over Getafe), so an equalising goal would have been painful for the manager.
Luckily, Atletico Madrid are fighters. They bounced back within minutes, scoring a second goal. It was, once again, Griezmann who put Atleti ahead, heading in from a Juanfran cross.
Cordoba seemed to crumple, as evidenced by another goal five minutes later, after yet another reliable delivery from Koke. His free-kick sailed past Cordoba keeper Juan Carlos and allowed a waiting Mandžukić to head it in to bring the score to 3-1.
Atleti weren’t done, however. Raul Garcia came on for Arda Turan and Saul replaced Gabi. I’m always sad to see Turan leave the pitch (with his charming bobble-headed jog and ready smile) and, of course, I love seeing Gabi on the field, but Raul Garcia and Saul are such welcome additions that one had the sense of an even fresher squad.
The feeling was rewarded when Raul Garcia got his head on to the ball in the 80th minute, whipping it behind him into the corner of the net. It was yet another strange goal, with it appearing to involve Cordoba defender Daniel Pinollos’ shoulder. The match I watched credited him with an own goal, but in my view it was Raul’s doing.
Last weekend, in the game against Getafe, Atleti got complacent towards the end and let in a goal, and it was more of the same today. Algerian international Ghilas once again took advantage, rocketing the ball into the back of the net in the 87th minute. However, the damage had already been done and the home side claimed a 4-2 victory. In all, the match was yet another solid performance from Los Rojiblancos with much to praise.
Three things to remember about Atletico Madrid
1. Keep your eye on Koke – Despite being wrongly overlooked as La Liga’s Midfielder of the Year earlier this week, Koke is always reliable and dependable. There’s good reason why he’s constantly compared to Xavi, who has so many fantastic characteristics that it physically hurts to watch a player of his calibre wind down his career, but Koke soothes that pain. Thankfully, he’s doing it for Atletico. Today’s match brought his league assists this season to 11.
2. Griezmann finally finds his footing – Prior to Saturday’s game, the young Frenchman had not scored a league goal for Atleti, so two in one was a welcomed statistic. Griezmann must have felt great in finally giving something back to the coach. He has the fans’ backing already, so it was a pleasure to finally applaud him.
3. Atleti will be in fine rested form for their Champions League business this week – Substituting Raul Garcia for Arda Turan and Saul for Gabi today meant Turan and Gabi have a bit of a rest prior to the trip to Sweden to face Malmö, Although Atletico squished Malmö 5-0 last time out, Los Rojiblancos never take chances. It’s a nice feeling going into the week and, I’m not sorry to admit, I feel like a cat who just had a lovely main of canary.
Also in La Liga
Saturday’s La Liga fixtures saw Real Madrid clinch the top spot with 24 points, while Atletico Madrid sit in a close second with 23. Barcelona have fallen to third after a 1-0 loss to Celta Vigo; has the presence of Luis Suarez messed with Lionel Messi’s head?
On Sunday, Valencia face Villarreal and Sevilla meet Athletic Bilbao.