Relief for Atleti coach Quique Sanchez Flores.
Sergio Aguero lifted Atletico Madrid from their recent slump by scoring the only goal of a gripping game which leaves Real Zaragoza in serious trouble near the relegation zone.
A frantic beginning to the match by Atletico let Leo Franco in the Zaragoza goal know he would be in for a long night. Atletico, on the back of a horrendous run of four straight La Liga defeats scoring a solitary goal in that period found themselves languishing in 11th place before the teams kicked off.
A series of corners in a lively start preceded to the first golden chance to the night. A sumptuously weighed pass split the Zaragoza defense leaving Sergio Aguero to complete the simple task of scoring. However, a heavy first touch allowed Franco enough time to block the tame chip.
The first chance of note for Zaragoza came in the 9th minute but Sinama-Pongolle acrobatically volleyed over the bar causing no real danger. The relentless Atleti attack resumed shortly as Aguero once more threatened. His long run resulted in an effort tipped around the post by the alert Franco. Reyes was running the Zaragoza defense ragged and Obradovic was lucky to escape without a caution after a petulant stamp on the winger’s calf.
The game then burst into life as Reyes charged into the box and was felled in controversial circumstances. The referee decided against awarding the contentious penalty in front of a vociferous home crowd.
The Atletico of old seemed to be coming back as a delightful chip from Aguero was ruled out for offside. De Gea was woken from his slumber soon after as in the 30th minute, Gabi galloped from midfield and smashed a shot with the outside of his boot that just curled away from goal at the crucial moment for the best attempt of the game so far.
Diego Forlan, who was being kept quiet throughout the first half by the impressive Ponzio, threatened with a first time shot that rose over the bar. Braulio headed wide as some pressure from Zaragoza allowed the opportunity to be carved open.
An Atleti response almost culminated in a goal as a scramble after a Franco save nearly let Aguero to open the scoring, but the shot was deflected behind. The resulting corner just missed the little Argentine as he proved to be their most dangerous attacking outlet.
The second half followed the template in the opening few minutes of the first as opportunities for both teams carved open more chances. De Gea getting down low to stop a drive from Braulio as he made the most from limited supply followed by a scorching shot from Reyes which was inches away from opening the lead after a selfless lay-off from the lively Aguero.
Some desperate Atletico defending ensured the score remained 0-0 when Braulio caused confusion before the ball was hacked away after an adventurous counter orchestrated by the influential Zaragoza captain, Gabi.
The game once more dipped in quality momentarily before a minute of madness. A swift counter attack led by Forlan ended in Aguero blasting past Franco for a deserved winner in the 66th minute. This was on the back of Zaragoza contriving to miss several gilt-edged opportunities as Atletico went missing for a corner. The lethal Aguero duly punished their profligacy as Forlan assisted his partner up front.
Immediately after the restart, Aguero could have doubled their advantage but for some hesitancy in front of goal cost him this glorious chance. Franco, who was single-handedly keeping his team in the game, then saved a wonderful volley from Raul Garcia as he resisted to concede once more to this Atletico attack.
Zaragoza were by no means out of this encounter as late on they struck the bar through Uche as he nearly punished Los Colchoneros for resting on their laurels. Fortune was clearly on De Gea’s side as his bar was hammered once more as the desperately unlucky Bertolo hit the woodwork this time after some fine individual play.
Atletico desperately held on for the win, which will move them up into seventh place - at least until Sunday's round of games.