Atletico Madrid remains undefeated in La Liga after a decisive victory at hosts Real Madrid tonight. The red and whites outplayed Madrid so badly that with the score 0-1 against them, since Diego Costa’s early fist half tally (11″), the merengues had fewer goal scoring chances throughout than did Athletic.
Continuing to play Diego Lopez in goal, and substituting half his starting line-up from the last La Liga game, Real coach, Carlo Ancelotti, once again showed his indecision by substituting three players at the beginning of the second half. His two line-ups ensured Real could build no rhythm and thus the ineffectual hosts simply could not mount a single coordinated attack, let alone a creative one.
On the other side of the pitch a well disciplined and cohesive Atletico simply defended better, intercepted and passed better, and if not for the post and crossbar would have clobbered Real by at least 3-0, because they also shot better.
In another poorly officiated game that got out of hand early and simply deteriorated as the match progressed there were fouls a plenty and gamesmanship raised to theatrics of Elizabethan proportions. Had a few early yellow cards been given, and they were certainly earned, the game might have been different. Fortunately, the competitive intensity and good football eventually outweighed the cynical elbows to the head and kicks to the back, making this an entertaining game, on balance.
Among the takeaways were: Costa is still atop the scoring table alongside Lionel Messi, David Villa continues to earn his marked man credits (seven clobbering fouls against him tonight), Real keeps playing uninspired football only they did not manage to luck out and win this time, and Ancelotti continues the ridiculousness of last season proving once and for all that there are still residuals in the club house from Jose Mourinho’s tenure. The question is who is fanning those allegedly dying embers and the only answer that comes readily to mind is the corporate offices.
Atletico now goes home tied with Barca for first place (actually behind on goal differential) while Real dropped three points to fall 5 points behind the leaders. This has one silver lining, the clasico now has added spice sprinkled on as the Madrid side needs to beat the Catalans to make up some ground.
Barca wins but Messi’s injured
Earlier today Messi scored another spectacular right to left run and gun from the half-moon that curled around the outstretched hands of the diving Esteban and kissed the far post on the way in to give Barca its lead on their way to a 2-0 away victory against UD Almeria. The second goal was courtesy of Adriano, the converted striker who now plays defense and still manages to surprise opponents with his offensive prowess (http://bit.ly/1bhl9uE).
On our watching-players-watch-Messi-play watch, it was important to note that once again the diminutive Argentine was allowed to run with the ball for the better part of 20 yards before taking his shot. Why he was allowed to roam those yards that took him from the far right, just outside the box, along the perimeter of the same to the half-moon, without a single defender cutting him down, is still our quandary to solve.
Messi seemed ok until he asked to be taken out, a rare occurrence. The injury as reported by Barcelona at the time was thought to be minor but might be enough to keep him out of the upcoming Champions League match against Celtic. As Neymar sat out this match it might be his chance to play a more central role on the European stage and even in the next Barca appearance in La Liga. Not a bad thing for fans to look forward to.