La Liga: Atletico survive scare and Real lose again
Falcao scores once more as Atlético Madrid hold off a resurgent Rayo Vallecano, while José Mourinho lambasts lack of “commitment and concentration” of his players.
By Halima Ali
A guard of honour may not be a tradition normally associated with Atlético Madrid but playing their first league game since they demolished Chelsea 4-1 in the UEFA Super Cup just over a fortnight ago, that was exactly what they got.
Winning silverware is not such a novelty in the other half of Madrid these days as back in May, when the talk was of what a great season Athletic Bilbao were having and Atléti surprised everyone by beating the Basques 3-0 in the Europa League final.
In Monaco, they brushed aside the reigning European Champions Chelsea with ease and despite the fact that their prize money is being withheld by UEFA for failure to comply with financial fairplay rules (the Madrileños are heavily in debt), their spirit cannot be dampened.
This is in large part down to the work of one man who scored a double in the Europa League final and a hat-trick against Chelsea. Radamel Falcao, brought into the club in the summer of 2011 has proved to be a revelation, notching 24 La Liga goals and 12 in Europe last season, and filling the talismanic-shaped hole left by Sergio Agüero and Fernando Torres before him.
El Tigre could only manage one on Sunday night, a penalty, but his side still beat Rayo Vallecano 4-3, after going four goals ahead in the Madrid derby, to continue their unbeaten start in La Liga.
Rojiblanco midfielder Mario Suárez got the only goal of the first half when he turned home a Diego Costa pass after 29 minutes in what had been until then an evenly matched game, but just four minutes after the restart, Liga newcomers Rayo were undone when Koke doubled the lead and a minute later Turkish international Arda Turan finished off an almost identical pass from Juanfran.
With 55 minutes gone, Falcao converted from the penalty spot, taking his tally to seven goals in four games for him in all competitions.
But the old Atléti reared their heads long enough to allow Rayo’s Andrija Delibašić a quick brace and Leo Carrilho a goal to bring the score to 4-3 and give the Vicente Calderón a scare in the final eight minutes.
On the other side of the city, things are not as rosy for Real Madrid, who look a long way off the record-breaking form that made them Spanish Champions for the first time in four years last season.
José Mourinho’s men lost 1-0 to a spirited Sevilla side at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán on Saturday night and with only four points from as many games, seem to be in freefall. It is Los Merengues’s worst start to a league campaign in 10 years, and the Portuguese manager’s worst start ever.
At this early stage they already sit eight points behind FC Barcelona, a deficit they have never overhauled against their Catalan rivals in the league and following his side’s paltry display, Mourinho was understandably furious.
“We have only really played well in the Spanish Super Cup. Nowhere else,” he said, in reference to the defeat of Barcelona at the start of the season. “There are very few heads who are committed and concentrated.”
When he was asked why he thought his side had performed badly in the first half, he replied: “Only the first half? You’re too kind.”
“I made two changes at half-time but I could have made seven.” He ended the post-match press conference stating: “Right now, I do not have a team.”
Ahead of tonight’s Champions League clash against Manchester City, the Special One was in a more considered mood saying: “I’m going to try to give my team what they are missing. My conviction is that we will have a compact team full of solidarity where everyone wants to work for everyone else’s sake, a team where everyone wants to play at 100 percent. I think we will be at the top of our game.’’
And they will have to be, for any other manager at the Santiago Bernabéu at this stage would be on the edge. Mourinho of course is not any other manager, he has been afforded unprecedented powers at the club because of his reputation, but in football and particularly in the Spanish capital, there is only so much patience for those who are no longer winning.
Real Valladolid 0 – 1 Real Betis
Atlético Madrid 4 – 3 Rayo Vallecano
Real Sociedad 2 – 0 Real Zaragoza
Osasuna 1 – 1 RCD Mallorca
Granada CF 1 – 1 Deportivo La Coruña
RCD Espanyol 3 – 3 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla FC 1 – 0 Real Madrid
Getafe CF 1 – 4 FC Barcelona
Valencia CF 2 – 1 Celta de Vigo
Málaga CF 3 – 1 Levante UD
Next: Avoiding the risk of Spanish property embargoes
Previous: José Luis Garci’s Sherlock Holmes is out to rescue Spain