Diego Simeone rested Arda Turan and Diego Costa, Radamel Falcao got injured, and there was little football on offer. However, Atleti won. Again. Setbacks, exhaustion and bad days are inevitable in football, as in life, and it is in those times when one's true character, ambition and quality come out. And Atleti keep on showing that they have all those qualities to burn. They have now clocked up 17 wins on the trot at the Vicente Calderón, and have not conceded a goal in their last 10 games there. They are eight points behind Barcelona, which is still a long way off, but they are closer than they were at the start of the weekend. Their current glorious position means all they can do is dream and believe
With the star players either having an off night (in the case of Falcao) or relegated to the bench (Arda), the game belonged to Koke. The Atleti youth product is in the form of his career and does not look like letting up any time soon. His right foot from dead balls has become a valuable weapon for Atleti this season, but he has also been a consistent performer in the middle of the park.. He is precise in his passing, he consistently gets involved in the attack, is reliable in creating chances and committed to recovering the ball when his team lost it. The footballer who has spent so many years trying to make a name for himself has finally arrived He was the best player on the pitch by far.
The game followed the script Levante wanted: little space, few exciting moments and few chances. But it could have been different had Falcao not mishit a cut back from Adrián on four minutes. Atleti then switched off.
They were forced to attack only down the left due to the presence of Manquillo at right back, who was making his first start for the first team. The 18-year-old took his time to get into the game but once he did, it was worth the wait. First he created danger with a low cross that was miraculously cleared by the nose of David Navarro, and then he created Atleti's opening goal, providing a perfect low pass across the face of goal for Adrián to convert.
The goal woke up the visitors somewhat, and they piled on the pressure on Thibaut Courtois before the break. The second half developed without incident until Falcao pulled a hamstring during an Atleti attack. He won't know the extent of the injury until he has tests on Monday, but Simeone's face suggests he may be out for a number of games.
Substitute Diego Costa created danger within minutes of coming on for the Colombian and his pass on the edge of the area was curled into the top corner by Koke, who all but sealed the points on 61 minutes. Cebolla Rodríguez could have scored a third but his shot rattled the crossbar, and Obafemi Martins and Juanlu both missed efforts that would have made for an exciting finish, but they were the only chances Levante were allowed due to Atleti's impeccable defence. The Vicente Calderón cannot help but keep on dreaming: 17 straight wins, and counting.