LA LIGA | VILLARREAL 0-1 ATLÉTICO
Torres with a Champion goal
‘El Niño’ scored with a goal of belief and quality, after stealing the ball off Bailly. Atleti take a big step to securing third place.
Belief, power, speed, opportunism, tranquility, quality and definition. That was Torres' Champions League worthy goal, the goal that gave Atleti victory over Villarreal. El Niño believed and forced Bailly’s mistake, faced up to Asenjo, dribbled round him, waited for Bailly, left him on the deck (his cut back a reminder of Maradona on Juan José in the Bernabéu) and put his shot past Victor Ruiz lying on the goal line.
Torres arrived in January to help Atleti meet their objectives. He accepts the role Cholo has given him, who said weeks ago that more should be demanded of the striker. At full confidence and fitness he continues to be one of the leading strikers out there, and he performs in big games.
Equality. Two models, two styles, two philosophies faced each other in the Madrigal. The first to shoot, in the first minute, was Campbell with a tame left foot shot into Oblak’s hands. Atleti, with a lively Griezmann, could have gone ahead – the Frenchman claiming a penalty in the 13th minute for a Jokic challenge, the kind that can be given or not, for a push, a light one, but a push. And a minute after, with some fabulous control, Griezmann hit Asenjo’s right post. Bailly might have made contact, but the Frenchman stayed on his feet and shot.
Between that effort and the following attempt, about a quarter of an hour passed. During that spell Villarreal passed the ball well, with those magnificent moves of Gerard Moreno (the striker has huge potential) but didn’t create any danger. In this quarter hour the usual doubts over Mandzukic came to the fore again, a great striker in the box, but who is far less effective if he doesn’t have the ball brought to him. Even then, a great ball to his feet left him struggling to lay off to Koke for a shot (which ended up going just past the post).
But the two best chances, one after another, fell to Marcelino’s team, around the 33rd minute. A wide free-kick sent into the area was met well by Víctor Ruiz and Oblak responded with the kind of save that wins points. The rebound fell to Moreno whose shot was saved on the line by Godín, with Oblak beaten. Mandzukic received another decent ball just before half-time, but headed badly wide.
In the second half, Villarreal came out looking for the win in their manner, with Atleti doing the same in theirs. The Yellow Submarine started with some great passages of play, but they lacked efficiency and failed to get into the box much. Atlético improved with more direct football. Tiago showed more after his poor first half, but when the Villarreal midfield decided to pass the ball about Atleti were at a loss.
Simeone then made two changes in a minute. Saúl and Torres coming on for Arda and Mandzukic. And six minutes later Raúl García for Gabi. And the changes improved Simeone’s side, consolidating their push for direct, counter-attacking football. Cholo got it right again.
With that approach to the game, the standard Atleti, Cholo’s Atleti, got the goal. Torres great goal. Villarreal didn’t give up and went looking for the draw, though Griezmann could have made it two, but hit the ball at Asenjo. (Hopefully your injury turns out to be nothing, keeper!). Mario, a right-back of international class, tried at centre-forward, but didn’t make the break through. And the three points headed off to Madrid.