Atletico Madrid prolonged the most unlikely of title chases after beating Valencia 3-2 in a thriller at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Thursday night.
Atleti made their strong start to the game count when Alvaro Morata poked home a beautiful cross from Juanfran in the eighth minute, after some clever play from Thomas Lemar.
Despite barely entering Atleti’s half in the opening 20 minutes, Valencia grew into the game and crafted a fine goal of their own when Gareido punished his former side from close range.
After Atletico took the lead again through an Antoine Griezmann header, the game seemed destined for a draw following a penalty awarded by VAR, that was dispatched by Daniel Parejo.
However, Angel Correa had other ideas, as the substitute unleashed a bullet of a finish from outside the box that earned Atleti all three points and ensured Barcelona will have to wait at least another week to be crowned La Liga champions.
Checkout our breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
When the two meanest defences in La Liga met on a rainy Thursday night, few would have predicted a five-goal thriller. Yet with the league title almost certainly heading to Catalonia, and with Champions League football guaranteed for next season, the usually dogmatic Atletico were given something of a free reign.
They exploited Valencia down the flanks from the get-go, with Lemar and Filipe Luis combining particularly well throughout. Whilst it may have taken a thunderbolt from Correa to seal the win, Simeone would have been pleased with how frequently his side opened up the second most stubborn defence in La Liga.
Starting XI: Oblak (7); Juanfran (7), Godin (6), Savic (6), F. Luis (7); Lemar (8*), Rodrigo (6), Saul (5), Koke (5); Griezmann (7), Morata (7).
Substitutes: Correa (8), Partey (6), Arias (N/A).
STAR MAN – The former Monaco man has struggled to live up to his £70m billing since moving to Los Colchoneros, but he followed up last week’s impressive cameo from the bench against Eibar with a dominant performance that showcased exactly why he was one of Europe’s most sought after players last summer.
Lemar gave Valencia’s makeshift right back Daniel Wass the sort evening that will make him wish he was back in centre midfield. The winger mixed dangerous crosses with intricate passes, and was heavily involved in both goals, grabbing the assist for Griezmann’s goal with a delicately dinked cross after a powerful surge into the box.
Thomas Lemar vs Valencia
88% pass accuracy
4 key passes
2 dribbles won
4 tackles won
Easily his best game in a red and white shirt. 🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/oEXVhMFDQv
— FootballTalentScout (@FtblTalentScout) April 24, 2019
Key Talking Point
Valencia entered the fixture as arguably the form team in La Liga, with only one defeat in their last 22 matches, and would have been hoping to make a serious statement in their pursuit of Champions League qualification.
Unfortunately, several of their recent heroes fluffed their lines somewhat. Goncalo Guedes suffered a particularly difficult night, being dispossessed on a number of occasions – one of which lead to Atleti’s opening goal – before being yanked off 25 minutes early.
Starting XI: Neto (6); Gaya (5), Diakhaby (6), Garay (6), Wass (5); Guedes (5), Coquelin (6), Parejo (7), C. Soler (6); S. Mina (7), Gameiro (6).
Substitutes: Sobrino (5).
STAR MAN – Despite a couple of sloppy losses of possession early doors, Parejo showed glimpses of why he is being lauded as one of the best central midfielders in La Liga.
With quick feet, vision, and a delightful range of passing, he was at the heart of everything that was good for a Valencia side who were second best for large portions of the game. He also showed the sort of big moment mentality needed for truly top class players, when he slotted home the penalty that looked like it had rescued a point for his team.
2-2 Dani Parejo slams in the penalty as super game takes another twist.
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 24, 2019
Dani Parejo’s first half vs. Atletico Madrid by numbers:
90% pass accuracy
3 successful take-ons
2 fouls suffered
1 tackle won
So underrated. 🇪🇸🎯 pic.twitter.com/2vLkDzJ9Yt
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) April 24, 2019
Atletico will be back at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday when they take on Real Valladolid. Simeone will be hoping his men take this momentum through to that game and ensure his side secure second place, ahead of their flashier neighbours.
Valencia on the other hand will be hoping to get their top four ambitions back on track with a home fixture against Eibar.