Atlético de Madrid beat Valencia 0-1 thanks to an own goal by Toni Lato. The mattresses were superior in the second act after a first half in which there was more equality. The men of Cholo Simeone become co-leaders of the Santander League, with two games less than Real Sociedad, thanks to a victory in which they had the luck that champions need.
The mattresses jumped to the Mestalla lawn with that favorite band to win the Santander League when they themselves insist on taking it off to continue thinking about game by game and, because in addition, there is a lot of championship left. Candidates, yes, as it should be every year; favorites, no. Apart from that debate, Simeone’s men only had one thing to do: win the three points. For this the Cholo came out with Oblak in goal; Trippier, Savic, Giménez and Hermoso in defence; Llorente, Koke, Saúl and Lodi occupied the core and Lemar and Correa in attack. Yes, Joao Félix was on the bench.
A minute of silence was kept -broken by some applause from Cholo and others present- for the memory of a myth of Valencianism like Juan Cruz Sol and for that of Diego Armando Maradona. The ball rolled and everything was transformed into the shouts of the footballers and instructions from the coaches. Only the chants and shouts from the stands were missing, how much the fans are missed in the stadiums and more in games like this. But at least there was football and an exciting and highly contested game to watch.
Atlético came out plugged from the first second, clearly demonstrating that new philosophy that Cholo Simeone has implemented, but As the minutes passed, Valencia was waking up and stretching from a nap. Llorente first warned with an easy shot for Jaume. The locals responded with a foul from the edge of the area that Oblak stopped. Both teams were looking for the three points and continued to enjoy chances throughout the first act.
Jaume stops Atleti
The rojiblancos, lately experts in making rival goalkeepers international, they tested Jaume over and over again. When the ball was not going out, it was the goalkeeper who made a save. And if not, ask Lemar, who on two occasions saw how the goalkeeper who reached out to put a miraculous hand before the shot placed from the Gaulish crescent. Or Correa, who from inside the area saw Doménech throw himself down to deny him the goal. In the other area, more of the same. Oblak put one of those saving hands before a shot from Racic and was forced to fly minutes later to avoid Lemar’s own goal.
And it is that except for that action, Thomas Lemar was beginning to seize his twenty-fourth opportunity. The former Monaco moved freely through the midfielder, offering himself to his teammates and distributing the game with good judgment. Jan Oblak was also celebrating in his team, who was playing 200, 200 league games and with the intention that in the second half, which was reached with the initial 0-0, he could continue to keep a clean sheet .
Atletico came back from the changing rooms with a novelty. Joao Félix entered for Renan Lodi and Lemar went back to the left wing, that position in which he has always disappointed. The second half started with the same rhythm, but with fewer chances. And the first and clearest was again for Lemar. Race down the right wing of Llorente, he crosses and Jaume stretches to reach out. The rejection falls to the French, who hits first just through the site that Daniel Wass was covering. In the action Guillamón was injured and Mangala entered in his place. The Valencia youth squad, knowing that he was warned, provoked his fifth card knowing that, predictably, he would not be available the next day.
The fortune of the champion
Moments later the one who tried his luck was a Joao Félix who had a hard time getting into the game. The Portuguese shot went over the crossbar and Simeone moved the bench again. Carrasco entered for Saúl, which implied that Llorente moved his position to the midfield and Lemar to the right. Jaume stopped again an attempt by Correa after an assist from Lemar and this was the last time they touched the ball because Kondogbia and Vitolo immediately had to enter for them to try to break the equalizer with half an hour ahead.
Javi Gracia also moved the bench and an old acquaintance for Atlético de Madrid entered: Kevin Gameiro. Atlético continued to dominate but no longer had that clarity of the first half to generate chances and make Jaume uncomfortable, but With ten minutes to go, he found fortune, with that little crumb of luck that champion teams need. Carrasco centers a ball, similar to Llorente’s from a few minutes ago, although from the other side. This time the Valencia goalkeeper did not get to put his hand, Vitolo did not manage to hit it and Toni Lato, who wanted to get the ball off him, put it into his own goal. Jaume had the enemy at home.
Far from shutting themselves in watching what was left of the game, Cholo Simeone’s men looked for the second goal to close the game. And it is that if they were superior during this second part, why not continue like this. So it continued although Valencia tried to tie the match, but it was useless by the Turia team. Final whistle, rebound victory, but three points after all. Atlético does not fail, it continues in the fight for the League, but remember, game by game. And the next one is the ‘final’ against Bayern in the Champions League.