LA LIGA | ATLÉTICO 1-1 VALENCIA
The Liga train arrived at the Calderón but nobody boarded
Atlético led through Koke but Mustafi, capitalsing on an error from Moya, ensured a point for Valencia, who saw Javi Fuego sent off late on.
For a lover of clasical music, Atlético-Valencia was an ordeal. There was neither delicacy, development nor feeling. For a lover of heavy metal it was an enjoyable game: intensity, bumps and muscle. Welcome to the jungle, so sang Axl Rose. Entangled in that jungle, both teams took a point. He train for La Liga stopped by the Manzanares but nobody got on. The teams began to argue and they passed the hour.
With Giezmann suspended, Simeone left Mandzukic on the bench – a serious note to the Croatian, normally a key starter. So Cholo started the game without 26 of his side’s 50 goals this season (14 for the Frenchman and 12 from the Croatian) – a risk. Fernando Torres’ tank lasted an hour after winning most of the aerial battles with Otamendi alongside Raúl García. There was a lack of football.
The first warning came after four minutes when Negredo tried an acrobatic effort on goal but it was a false alarm for Atleti. Valencia did not return to trouble the area of Moyá until the final 15 minutes. In the end the goalkeeper went from one of the best in La Liga to one of the most vulnerable on the day. Until that moment, Atlético were on top with Torres exerting his leadership. He is not what he was, but plenty still remains.
And, of course, the return to the starting line-up of Koke was noticeable. He chipped in with so many things, not all of them obvious. He is a player you are always aware of when he is missing. With Arda and Juanfran in runner mode and putting some big crosses in, Atlético were closing on the goal of Alves.
Atleti continued to push from set pieces and after a couple of warnings, Koke struck what proved to be the winner. It came in the 33rd minute from a Gabi free-kick. He combined with Torres and Tiago, who put the ball into his path off his shoulder and Koke struck the ball into the back of the net.
In the second half there was even more volume to the concern. There was nothing but noise. In total there were 41 fouls, 13 yellow cards and one red, to Javi Fuego right at the very end for a second bookable offence. Between the collisions, Atleti seemed to be in control and could have finished the game off in the 70th minute when Tiago hit the bar from close range.
Without Torres and Koke on the pitch to give the hosts an output, Atlético retreated and became their own worst enemy. Giménez saved a possible Godín error and Valencia, who had not had a shot on goal, saw light at the end of the tunnel. They were aided by Moya, who hesitated from a long-range Parejo free-kick and the ball struck the bar before falling to Mustafi to score the equaliser. There were 12 minutes left but neither side were able to find the winner. The train left empty.