Atletico Madrid progressed to the round of 8 in the Copa del Rey last night, keeping alive their hopes of glory on three fronts.
I was in Spain to witness their 2-0 victory over Valencia, and was impressed by their composure and ability to move up a gear when needed.
Last week’s first leg had ended 1-1 thanks to a late Valencia equaliser from Helder Postiga. With another draw against Barcelona last Saturday it was imperative that they returned to winning ways, but Valencia had set out their stall to frustrate Atleti. They look a stronger, more organised team under new coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and they refused to be awed by the La Liga co-leaders.
It was nil-nil at the interval after an uninspiring first half but, as in the weekend clash against Barca, the Atleti fans remained in high spirits and the red and white scarves were twirling furiously. Diego Simeone had instructed his team to be more direct in the second half and his team talk paid off.
Gabi and Arda were tormenting Valencia from midfield and it was only a matter of time before their dogged defending gave way. Diego Godin scored the first, heading past Guiata after a Gabi corner, and it was another header from the impressive Raul Garcia that sealed the victory.
Diego Costa was busy, as always, for the hosts but was unusually profligate in front of goal. He will be hoping to regain his scoring touch soon, this is turning into a drought for the normally lethal finisher.
Parejo was dismissed for Valencia, picking up his second yellow card for a late show of petulance. A night to forget for him and his team, but Atleti go marching on.