First things first. Ufjalusi is a punk. Now I feel better.
Our heroes played a wildly entertaining game today that for me kind of encapsulates our season thus far. We play entertaining games most of the time. The problem is that we play entertaining games against teams that we should be putting away 2-0 or 3-1. I’m not saying Atletico is in that company; more accurately they are what we are: inconsistent and capable of beating most anyone or losing to most anyone on any given afternoon. Much like Navas’s cross that floated just over Perotti’s position in the Porto game midweek, success seems tantalizingly close but just in the end just eludes our grasp.
Our goals were brilliant. Perotti chested a cross directly into Negredo’s path, who made no mistake with his first touch to open the scoring. The second came from a counter started by Escude deep in our own end through the left wing with Perotti, who switched the play to Navas for a perfectly placed finish by Rakitic. World class the both of them. I realize that it is probably out of Monchi’s hands, but all must be done to keep Negredo if at all possible.
So while both our goals gave us leads, Atleti’s constant pressure on our right side defense resulted in a pair of equalizers. Dabo was caught flat-footed by an angled cross from Forlan for the first. Sergio Sanchez was guilty of losing Reyes behind him for the second. On both occasions our right side defenders were simply ball-watching and not in the required position. And as is typical for this season, they were punished for momentary lapses in concentration.
So what did we like?
- Negredo. Simply put, he should be starting every game. He was desperately unlucky not to have bagged the winner with a strike that beat DeGea, hit the crossbar and somehow didn’t go in or deflect in off of the fallen ‘keeper.
- Rakitic. He consistently pops up in good attacking positions. As he matures I hope he becomes a more commanding physical presence in the midfield, but his skills and composure are undeniable.
- The pairing of Fazio and Escude. I hope Manzano gives them a run of games to see if they can organize our backline effectively.
- And last but not least, by popular acclimation our new #1, Javi Varas. He might have done better on the first goal, but he made eight saves and was composed and solid throughout. He’ll need to be more vocal and assertive at times, as Navarro would surely attest, but Palop can certainly model those qualities for him.
And so, to be fair, I think if Manzano had been offered a draw prior to the match he might have taken it. It’s simply more painful when you’ve already mentally put the three points in the bank.