Atlético miss chance to move into second

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.

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

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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Thousands of Atletico fans flock to Madrid’s Neptune fountain to cheer league victory

Thousands of Atletico Madrid fans defied the authorities by taking to the streets of the Spanish capital to celebrate on Saturday night after victory over Real Valladolid secured their team an 11th league title.

Thousands of Atletico fans flock to Madrid's Neptune fountain to cheer league victory
Spanish policemen stand guard around Atletico Madrid´s supporters outside the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

As soon as the full-time whistle blew in Valladolid to confirm a 2-1 win, Atleti supporters flocked to the Neptune fountain in the centre of Madrid, in
line with tradition but defying Covid-19 rules regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing.

“I was confident Atletico would win. It was like a final and being against Valladolid, I knew we were going to win,” Federico Gonzalez, 46, and among the crowds, told AFP.

A large police presence surrounded the fountain, with several vans also present to prevent people from approaching the fountain, which had been lit up in Atletico’s red and white colours.

Fans waved flags and scarves while others set off flares as darkness fell, the celebrations going on into the night after Atletico’s second La Liga title in seven years.

“It is a joy. From the beginning of the game I was overcome with nerves because Atleti plays each game in its own way and you just never know”, said Carlota Maestro, 20, who came to the city centre with three friends.

Amid shouts of “Atleti, Atleti” and “Campeones”, the rojiblancos fans danced, jumped and hugged each other. Cars and motorbikes drove by honking
their horns, some with red and white flags poking out of the windows.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant Atletico’s fans have not been allowed to attend matches this season and their celebrations defied the recommendations of the authorities.

Fans ignored rules on social distancing and many were not wearing masks. “Please, I ask the Atletico fans not to go to Neptune,” wrote the mayor of
Madrid, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, himself an Atletico supporter, on Twitter. “I am the first to understand the desire to celebrate but this is not the time.”

“It is a strange celebration, because we have not been able to do it like normal, on the field, surrounded by other fans,” said Pablo Diaz, a 22-year-old fan. “We celebrate it but with a little fear, being careful, and wearing a mask.”

Hundreds of other fans had accompanied the team to Valladolid, where they watched the game on their phones in the car park outside the stadium.

After the match, Atletico’s ran out of the stadium to celebrate with the supporters they had not seen all season.