Valencia 2-2 Atletico Madrid
It was considered by many as a clash between the ‘best of the rest’, and these two sides have managed to upset, albeit occasionally, the La Liga duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
So, it was always likely we could be in for a Friday night treat at the Mestalla with La Liga highlights aplenty.
We certainly weren’t disappointed as the sides shared four goals and the race for a Champions League spot next season continues to intrigue.
Highlights of the game
This despite Los Rojiblancos leading twice only to be pegged back by the hosts who very nearly won the game themselves late on.
Also, unusually, Atletico conceded from two set-pieces on the night.
Marcos Llorente has not figured much this season but it was the former Real Madrid midfielder who unexpectedly opened the scoring after a quarter of an hour.
Picked out by Vitolo, Angel Correa saw a shot deflected but Llorente was in the right place at the right time to tap in what was the first real chance of the game for the visitors.
With Brazil coach Tite watching on in the stands, Gabriel Paulista leveled five minutes before the break as he headed in a cross from Maxi Gomez.
Thomas Partey restored Atletico’s advantage almost immediately to ensure Simeone’s side went in ahead at the break.
Taking possession and driving forward, the Ghanaian tried his luck from outside the area and rifled a shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Just before the hour though, the home side were level again as Dani Parejo delivered a fine free-kick into the penalty area and Geoffrey Kondogbia was well placed to scramble the ball past Jan Oblak.
Former Atletico forward Kevin Gameiro had a chance to put the hosts in front but sent his shot over the bar from fairly close range before play went down the other end and Alvaro Morata saw a header saved.
The ever-impressive Oblak then ensured his side went home with a point by tipping a Jose Gaya shot over the bar in the closing stages.
Honours even and make no mistake, things aren’t going fully to plan for Atletico right now.
Yet they haven’t become a bad side overnight and here was another example.
Paulista’s goal was his first since netting for Arsenal in December 2015.
Partey’s goal was the first Atletico have scored from outside the box in La Liga this term.
Valencia are the first team in the Spanish top flight to have drawn at home all four games against Madrilean opponents in a single season: Leganés (1-1), Getafe (3-3), Real Madrid (1-1) and tonight.
Atletico have not won a league match before any of their seven Champions League games this season (D6, L1).
Los Che haven’t won in the last 11 meetings between the sides, while Valencia have employed 13 different coaches since Simeone was appointed Atletico boss.
In the 21 games Simeone has had against Valencia, he’s lost just twice in this fixture in 2012/13 and 2014/15. Atletico have won 11 of the games, with the other eight ending all square.
Valencia last defeated them more than five years ago. Their last win over Los Rojiblancos came in October 2014 when goals from Andre Gomes, Nicolas Otamendi and an own goal from Miranda gave them a 3-1 success at Mestalla.
This is Valencia’s longest ever winless streak against Atletico.
It’s European combat next for both sides.
Valencia travel to last season’s surprise Serie A package Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday (Feb 19) and then visit Real Sociedad next Saturday (February 22) for another key clash in the race for Europe.
Simeone’s side host Liverpool in the last 16 first leg on Tuesday (February 18) and then host Villarreal a week on Sunday (February 23) in the league.
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