Atlético miss chance to move into second

Atlético miss chance to move into second
Despite the draw, Simeone was happy to have maintained Atlético's 15-point advantage over Valencia. Photo: Dominique Faget
Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone said he believes Valencia have the third best squad in Spain after his side could only manage a 1-1 draw with Los Che on Sunday.

Real Madrid's 1-1 draw at Real Zaragoza on Saturday had given Atlético the chance to overtake their city rivals and move back into second place, but despite having to settle for a point Simeone was happy to have maintained their 15-point advantage over Valencia who remain in sixth.

"They have one of the best squads in best, the third best behind Barcelona and Real Madrid," he told a press conference.

"Therefore we are proud of our players at this moment. In the first-half Valencia played very well. They have a very talented and competitive squad and they played like that. 

"We were lucky to have created danger in the few chances we did have and in the second-half we took they game to them and tried to win."

The game got off to a flying start with both goals arriving in the opening six minutes.

Valencia took advantage of a nervy start from the hosts as Jonas prodded through Thibaut Courtois' legs from Joao Pereira's cross.

Simeone's men were level within a minute though as Arda Turan's cross was expertly guided in at the far corner by Radamel Falcao for his 22nd league goal of the campaign.

Despite that setback Valencia went on to control the first-half as Atletico struggled to contain the midfield trio of Dani Parejo, Ever Banega and Tino Costa.

Parejo saw a long-range free-kick fly just over the bar before Courtois was forced into a fine double save by efforts from Pablo Piatti and Jonas.

However, for all their dominance Valencia could easily have gone into the break behind as Diego Alves did well to parry Gabi's free-kick.

That effort seemed to galvanise Atletico who dominated the second period.

Filipe Luis saw a goalbound shot deflected into the side-netting before Alves had to be quick off his line to deny Diego Costa a clear run on goal.

The home fans were then angry when Jonas appeared to have clearly handle inside his own area, but referee Javier Estrada Fernandez waved play on.

But without the injured Arda, who was replaced by Raul Garcia, they lacked the guile needed to unlock a well-organised Valencia backline.

And indeed the visitors nearly took all three points three minutes from time as a thumping long-range effort from Parejo whistled just past the post.

The point ensured Valencia didn't lose any ground in the race for the final Champions League place as fourth-placed Real Sociedad also drew 2-2 at Espanyol on Sunday.

Sergio Garcia fired the hosts into an early lead and after David Zurutuza had briefly levelled for the Basques, Cristian Stuani restored Espanyol's lead six minutes before the break.

However, the introduction of Ruben Pardo proved key in the second-half as two minutes after he replaced Asier Illarramendi he fed Antoine Griezmann and the French winger's poor first touch rebounded fortunately off Espanyol defender Javi Lopez into his own goal to secure Philippe Montanier's side a point.

At the bottom, Deportivo La Coruña gave their chances of survival a boost as they beat second-bottom Mallorca 3-2.

The Galicians remain at the foot of the table but are now just four points off safety.

Osasuna meanwhile eased their relegation fears as they too came from behind to win 3-1 at Valladolid.

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