After a dull first half at the Vicente Calderon, the game sprung to life four minutes into the second. Adrian Lopez’s shot was well saved by Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz, but Falcao was in the right place to make no mistake from the rebound. The Colombian’s diving header 20 minutes from time doubled Atletico’s advantage before Javi Martinez netted a consolation in injury time.
Athletic, so impressive in their home and away Europa League wins over Manchester United, were again without striker Fernando Llorente and his absence was noticeable as Marcelo Bielsa’s men enjoyed considerable possession without creating clear scoring chances. Markel Susaeta wasted their best opportunity when he was presented with an open goal in the second half, but the midfielder’s scuffed shot was easily cleared off the line.
Atleti’s win sees them climb to seventh in La Liga, just a point behind the Europa League places, while Athletic slip to ninth. Los Colchoneros’ Coach Diego Simeone said after the game that he never thought his side were assured of victory, even with a two-goal lead, before going on to acknowledge the performance of Falcao, who took his tally to 19 goals in 24 Primera outings this season.
“Today’s game was important both because of our powerful opponents also because of what we are trying to achieve,” Simeone commented. “As for Falcao, he is very popular with the fans and with the club. His record is extraordinary, but he also has great dignity and charisma, all the characteristics expected of Atletico players by the people who love them.”
In contrast, Bielsa recognised that the additional physical demands placed on his players by their Europa League campaign were a factor behind the recent dip in Los Leones’ form in La Liga, but said he accepted responsibility for his team’s defeat.
“I feel particularly responsible. I took decisions which did not change what I wanted to correct,” reflected the Argentine at the post-match the Press conference. “When I wanted to correct our weakness in attack, the team improved offensively but weakened in the midfield, where we are usually reliable in winning the ball.”