La Liga: The Diego Effect
“Whenever you put on a shirt like Atlético’s, there are no excuses,” announced the still relatively new coach Diego Simeone ahead of the game against city rivals Getafe. Never one to fail to produce inspiring rhetoric, it is Los Rojiblancos domestic form of late that is a little less awe-inspiring.
By Halima Ali
Certainly, for El Cholo as he is affectionately known at the club where he previously spent two stints as a player and captain, the honeymoon period is petering out as Atlético Madrid have reverted to type and fallen back into their inconsistent ways.
Brought in to replace Gregorio Manzano who was sacked in December, his return was very much a case of returning home after six and a half years. A huge fan favourite, Simeone had played for Atléti twice. The first time in the mid-nineties, he was part of a side which won the double in 1996. His second stint came from 2003 until 2005, when he left in tears to rapturous applause from supporters.
His reign as manager began brightly as it so often does at Atléti but a string of poor results away from home recently culminated with the team giving away a last gasp penalty as Diego Godín brought down Zaragoza sub Juan Carlos. Apoño converted from the spot at La Rosaleda to lift his side off the bottom of the table but the defeat was a dent to the capital club side who saw hopes of a top four finish fade.
In European competition, however, the club seem to flourish and their form has been impressive, as they continue to fly the Spanish flag – along with Valencia and Athletic Bilbao – winning on Thursday night with a last gasp 2-1 victory over Hannover 96 in the first-leg of the quarter-finals.
Buoyed by the victory in Europe, Los Colchoneros claimed a 3-0 win over Getafe at the Vicente Calderón on Sunday to close in on fourth place in la liga.
Eduardo Salvio was first to get the hosts off the mark with a looping header over Getafe goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyà in the first half.
Diego – who got his first start in seven weeks – then doubled the advantage in the 62nd minute with a header that first rattled the crossbar but bounced back into his path for a second attempt while Falcao calmly finished from a Juanfran cross for the third.
The win brings Simeone’s men up to seventh place in la liga with 42 points, now just five points shy of a Champions League qualification spot.
El Cholo certainly has the credentials to finally be the man to bring stability to Atléti; he says all the right things and his legendary status ensures him huge backing from fans and club alike, but there have been 16 managers in as many years that will say otherwise.
Elsewhere, in the race for the title, this weekend’s trip to the Reyno de Navarra was deemed a dangerous match for league leaders Real Madrid who look to keep their six-point lead intact ahead of a visit to the Camp Nou later this month.
Osasuna ,who inflicted defeat on Barcelona at the beginning of the year, looked to do the same to the capital club but a stunning Marco Van Basten style volley by Karim Benzema in the 7th minute put paid to any such idea. Not to be outdone, Cristiano Ronaldo scored from 35 yards and Gonzalo Higuaín dinked one over the goalkeeper. The Argentine and Ronaldo added another each in the second half for a 5-1 victory.
Barcelona then kicked off against Athletic Bilbao, who will be their Copa del Rey final opponents next month.
With one eye on European competition, both sides rested key players but Andrés Iniesta opened the scoring in the first half when he hammered the ball high into the net. Messi then converted from the spot, after Cristian Tello was bundled over in the second half, to seal victory and notch his 36th league goal of the season.
New coach Miguel Ángel Lotina’s Villarreal remain undefeated in three matches following a 0-0 draw with Espanyol at El Madrigal.
In a disappointing encounter with few chances, the hosts demonstrated why they have only lost twice at home in la liga.
The Yellow Submarine are now four points clear of the relegation zone while Espanyol stay in seventh place.
Málaga CF 0 – 2 Real Betis
FC Barcelona 2 – 0 Athletic Bilbao
Osasuna 1 – 5 Real Madrid
Racing Santander 0 – 1 Granada CF
Sporting Gijón 1 – 2 Real Zaragoza
Villarreal CF 0 – 0 RCD Espanyol
Real Sociedad 4 – 0 Rayo Vallecano
Valencia CF 1 – 1 Levante UD
Atlético Madrid 3 – 0 Getafe CF
Sevilla FC 3 – 1 RCD Mallorca
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Published: Apr 3 2012
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=5854
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Tags: Athletic Bilbao, atletico madrid, barcelona, diego simeone, getafe, la liga, la liga standings, osasuna, Real Madrid, spain football results, spanish football, Spanish soccer