Alex Clapham has a closer look at the game between Atletico Madrid and Valencia the past weekend, particularly Yannick Ferreira Carrasco’s strike.
Atletico Madrid vs Valencia. Without a spare seat in the house, we were in for a real battle in what promised to be a mouthwatering clash between two historic Spanish giants that both came into this one having boasted wins in the Champions League days earlier.
True to their trademark, the hosts were out of the blocks like greyhounds and within minutes Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech was forced into several top drawer saves to keep Simeone’s men at bay. The heat was turned up further and Atletico’s Rojiblanco fans greeted every one of their player’s challenges with deafening cheers of encouragement which made for a ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ atmosphere in the famous Vicente Calderon stadium that lays beside the Manzanares river in the working class district of Arganzuela, south Madrid.
As Valencia’s Rodrigo was forced off through injury, coach Nuno replaced him with Paco Alcacer who slotted straight into his natural lead striker role; leaving Valencia’s right full back Joao Cancelo vulnerable as well as his midfield teammates a man down in central areas. To make matters worse for Los Che the hosts capitalized moments later when an awful mix-up between central defenders Shkodran Mustafi and Aderlan Santos led to the ultimate punishment by the always grateful Colombian Jackson Martinez who finished neatly to give himself his third goal of the season and Atletico a deserved 1-0 lead.
The goal only sparked more electricity to the atmosphere and Atletico began to dominate in all areas of the pitch as their players suffocated Valencia who struggled to get out of their own half. As the Colchoneros grew more relentless in their pressing, the visitor’s club captain and playmaker Dani Parejo took it upon himself to drop deeper in an attempt to offer support to his defenders who were hesitant to play long, direct passes as Atleti’s defensive duo of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez are so aerially dominant. This only provided license for Koke and Gabi to go hunting for the ball in the final third as they knew they had the safety net of Tiago backing them at all times. As Nuno’s men knew they now had to chase the game, and a goal before the break would be critical to the way that the second-half shaped out; they proceeded to push wide defenders Cancelo and Jose Gaya into more advanced areas. Atleti played on this and were brave enough to leave players in Valencia’s half so as to penetrate quickly when they won the ball.
As Parejo was caught in possession just inside his own half by the swarming bodies of the ever-harassing red and white stripes, he seemed to unfairly trip Atletico’s Uruguayan defender Gimenez, however, the referees deemed it a fair tackle and spurred on by their incensed fans; the hosts chased the ball with the hunger of a pack of wild coyotes that hadn’t eaten in weeks. Club captain Gabi dispossessed Alcacer and immediately freed Yannick Ferreira Carrasco down the left hand side. The Belgian knew that there were spaces centrally to attack the already shaky backline of Valencia and showed supreme upper body strength to bundle past the unbalanced Enzo Perez, who was on the stretch covering the out-of-position full-back Cancelo, to cut inside. As the French hotshot Antoine Griezmann showed great intelligence with a run across the front of the man on the ball that not only stopped opposition defenders from coming out to press, but also landed central defender Mustafi in two minds as he didn’t know whether to stick or twist. In the end he retreated, following the off-the-ball run of Atleti’s number 7.
Griezmann’s run not only confused Mustafi, but it also caught the attention of backtracking midfielder Barbosa da Silva who saw the off-the-ball sprint out of the corner of his eye. Carrasco’s natural dribbling instinct jumped on this opportunity and using his upper body weight to feign left, he then chopped inside with the outside of his right foot to leave the Valencia midfielder on his backside.
Strike-partner Jackson Martinez peeled away towards the far side of the area; attracting defenders Santos and Gaya towards him which opened up the gap in which the 22 year-old Ferreira Carrasco fizzed a spectacular right-footed drive through, low into the left-hand corner of Domenech’s goal to give Cholo Simeone’s men the 2-0 lead that they more than deserved to take into the break.
As the game played out the hosts registered 16 shots at goal (8 on target) compared to Valencia’s 1. The only attempt on target from Los Che was infact a goal that was scored from the penalty spot late in the game by Spanish international Paco Alcacer. The 2-1 scoreline flattered Valencia in the end and it was a tactical triumph for Simeone’s Atletico who dominated play and saw 3 attempts on goal stopped splendidly by the impressive Domenech in the dying moments that kept any hopes of Valencia rescuing what would have been an undeserved point alive.
A magnificent performance was capped by a wonder goal that would have been fitting to win a cup final. The Atleti faithful cried “Carrasco Carrasco” as the young Belgian left the field to a standing ovation so loud that it would have left fans in white at the other side of the city covered in goosebumps. Following a €15 million move from Monaco in the summer, the 22 year-old had officially announced himself.
Written by Alex Clapham
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