Atletico Madrid enhanced their Champions League hopes by defeating Deportivo La Coruna 2-1, but they were made to sweat.
Goals from Sergio Aguero and Simao either side of the break handed Atletico Madrid a morale-boosting 2-1 victory this evening over Deportivo La Coruna at The Riazor.
In what was a match low on incident and quality, Atletico produced a solid if unspectacular display against a poor Deportivo side to move into 6th position in the table and close in on fourth-placed Valencia.
Atletico Madrid were looking to take advantage on Villarreal’s slip up on Saturday evening where they lost to Malaga, and close the gap to the coveted Champions League qualifying position. Coach Abel Resino opted for his first-choice strike pairing of Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan to fire them to victory.
Deportivo coach Miguel Angel Lotina believed his side were still in with a chance of landing fourth spot too, and continued with Frenchman Lassad Nouioui as his lone striker, with Lafita and the veteran Juan Carlos Valeron operating just behind him.
Despite both sides’ European aspirations and the attacking talent on show, the first 45 minutes was a complete non-event as defenses emerged most definitely on top. That was until right on half-time, when Atletico stole the lead thanks to a Sergio Aguero goal that was scarcely deserved but most definitely welcome for the visitors.
In such a drab and disappointing half, it was a goal that lit up the contest. Aguero played a perfect one-two with striker partner Forlan, and when bearing down on goal nonchalantly chipped the ball past Aranzubia into the corner for his 14th league goal of the season and Los Colchoneros had a crucial lead.
There had been a nervousness about the match, with both sets of players sensing that defeat would all but end their hopes of landing that coveted fourth place, and a cagey affair had developed, but Aguero’s lovely finish meant that Deportivo would have to rethink their offensive strategy if they were to find a way back into the match.
And the home side did emerge with a improved verve, but still couldn’t manage to fashion an opening, and Atletico’s normally fragile back four were relatively comfortable as Deportivo huffed and puffed, but ultimately got nowhere close to Leo Franco’s goal.
The visitors soaked up the brief spell of pressure, and the proceeded to seal the win with a killer second goal.
Raul Garcia burst through the center and slipped the ball wide to Simao, who showed great acceleration and control to cut across the box and curl the ball low into the corner to all but end Deportivo’s chances of taking anything from the contest.
But Miguel Angel Lotina’s side eventually threatened in the closing stages, and Leo Franco had to look sharp to deny firstly Pablo Alvarez and then to beat Juan Rodriguez’s curling shot to safety.
Bodipo then managed to find the net in the dying seconds, heading home from close range to set up a grandstand finish, and then in injury time Rodriguez hit the post as Atletico threatened to capitulate under heavy pressure.
But in the end Deportivo ran out of time, and perhaps if they had mounted their onslaught sooner, they have managed to salvage something from the match.
For Abel Resino, however, a crucial three points was secured that keeps Atletico in touch with the sides jostling for position on the periphery of the Primera Division’s top four.
Paul Macdonald, Goal.com