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La Liga: Atlético’s away form comes home to roost

It now looks too late for coach Gregorio Manzano to turn around the fortunes of Madrid’s perennial underachievers and save his job.

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Under the gun: Gregorio Manzano.

While admitting to disastrous away form, Atlético Madrid coach Gregorio Manzano defended himself this week by reasoning “at home we are playing well”, just days before a 2-0 defeat at the Vicente Calderón to a struggling Real Betis side. The result has surely sealed the fate of yet another Atlético coach.

Given the board’s dreaded vote of confidence earlier in the week, the remainder of his tenure was dependent on three home games in a week before the winter break. The first was a resounding success as Los Rojiblancos beat Rennes 2-0 in the Europa League.

The second saw Atléti fail to take their chances in front of goal with two dreadful misses by summer signing Falcao early on in the game, which could very well have changed the outcome. Instead, Betis managed to bide their time before two second half goals from Alejandro Pozuelo and Roque Santa Cruz sealed the win for the Andalusian side.

The final game, and surely Manzano’s last, is a second-leg Copa del Rey fixture against Albacete on Wednesday, which will see the Madrid side attempting to overturn a 2-1 defeat inflicted in the first leg at the hands of the third-tier team.

Manzano – in his second stint at Atlético – is the club’s 48th manager in 24 years and as is the way with most coaches at Atlético, he never stood much of a chance. Poor results away from home and a spectacular falling out with José Antonio Reyes, after which the coach invented a string of unconvincing excuses to explain the player’s absence, have blighted his second spell at the club.

His side currently sit 10th in the league table, a mere four points from the relegation zone and 10 points from a Champions League place.

The Christmas hiatus will most likely also draw to a close Reyes’s stay in the capital and he looks set to return to Sevilla, the club where he began his professional career, for a reported €3.5 million in the January transfer window.

However, despite the changes the new year could bring, 2012 does not look much brighter for the Atléti faithful as a recent report in El País claimed the club owe €215 million to the taxman.

The names being bounded about as coaching replacements include Luis Aragonés – a fan favourite whose name was being chanted at the Calderón at the weekend – former Atlético player Diego Simeone and, according to one late night football debate show, Everton’s David Moyes. Whoever it may be, he will need to work fast to lift the gloom surrounding the club.

Meanwhile Cristiano Ronaldo responded to a week of media criticism for his poor showing in last weekend’s El Clásico by netting a hat-trick – his fifth of the season – to send his Real Madrid side three points clear at the top in Saturday’s 6-2 win at Sevilla. His performance, he said, was designed to “shut people up”, adding: “Those who criticise me don’t know anything about football.”

However, Sevilla’s dismal weekend did not end with the defeat as club president José María del Nido was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for his role in a corruption case on Monday.

Madrid’s nearest rivals FC Barcelona spent the weekend attending to business in Japan where they coasted to the Club World Cup title in Yokohama on Sunday night, defeating Brazilian side Santos 4-0. The competition is now the 13th they have won from a possible 16 since Pep Guardiola took over. The only dampener for the Catalan side was the news that striker David Villa will be out for up to five months after breaking his left leg in Barcelona’s semi-final victory over Al Sadd.

Valencia retained third place after in-form striker Roberto Soldado notched a double in a 2-0 victory over Málaga at the Estadio Mestalla. Los Che opened the scoring nine minutes before half-time then added another after the break to seal the win.

Osasuna scored twice in the final 15 minutes to beat Villarreal and put themselves firmly in the race to earn a European spot this season and Granada sealed their third win in five league games against a spirited Levante side with first-half goals from Guillherme Siqueira and Abel Gómez.

At El Sardinero, with the home side stranded in the relegation zone and Real Sociedad not far above it, Racing Santander and the visitors played out a disappointing goalless draw, a result that does little to help either side’s prospects.

RESULTS:

Sporting Gijón 1 – 2 RCD Espanyol

RCD Mallorca 1 – 2 Getafe CF

Athletic Bilbao 2 – 1 Real Zaragoza

Sevilla FC 2 – 6 Real Madrid

Atlético Madrid 0 – 2 Real Betis

Granada CF 2 – 1 Levante UD

Osasuna 2 – 1 Villarreal CF

Racing Santander 0 – 0 Real Sociedad

Valencia CF 2 – 0 Málaga CF





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Published: Dec 20 2011
Category: Sports, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=5028
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