Atletico Madrid 4-1 Valencia – Atletico eventually tire nine-man Valencia

March 1, 2010

The starting line-ups

A strange game. Atletico dominated it from the outset and yet still went behind, to a classic rapid Valencia counter-attack. They equalised through a Forlan penalty, an incident in which Marchena was dismissed, and then Atletico had an hour of football with an extra man, and yet only went ahead within the last 15 minutes. After that, Miguel was also sent-off for Valencia, and Atletico added two more.

Valencia set up in their usual 4-2-3-1 system, David Villa supported by a fluid, pacey attacking trio which started from deep positions and broke at speed. Atletico’s shape was more or less a 4-4-2, with Aguero and Forlan taking it in turns to drop deep and make it a 4-4-1-1. Accuncao was given the holding role, with Tiago handed more license to venture forward to support the front four. Simao and Reyes were again deployed as inverted wingers, the right-footed Simao on the left, the left-footed Reyes on the right.

Perhaps the pertinent question here is why it took Atletico so long to take advantage of their extra man. Marchena was sent-off after 30 minutes, and yet Atletico only went ahead after 75. They dominated possession and created chances, but one was never entirely sure the goals would eventually come.

Part of the problem was that, with Valencia sitting deep and playing on the counter, going down to ten men didn’t really change the way they played, or the way they were forced to defend. Atletico’s attacking threat came from Simao and Reyes in the wide positions, with obvious goalscoring threats upfront. And therefore Valencia’s task didn’t change much – the centre-backs picked up the centre-forwards and the full-backs picked up the wingers. It was still 2 v 2 in the centre of midfield.¬†Atletico’s full-backs seemed reluctant to venture forward, and therefore they rarely caused an overload to trouble Valencia.

When Marchena was sent-off, Valencia replaced Mata with Maduro and went 4-4-1

Atletico’s best attacks came from the right, where Reyes was on tremendous form. On the right-hand side Valencia had a wide player (Joaquin, then Pablo Hernandez) constantly covering Miguel, and Simao struggled to make an impact, but on the left they had David Silva playing both more centrally and further forward, looking to support David Villa. This meant that Reyes was constantly in acres of space, and had time to carry the ball and get up to full speed before taking on the full-back.

This was probably a win that is difficult to attribute to tactics alone. Valencia’s Europa League game in midweek went to extra time, so they were tired enough going into the game – the dismissal of two of players only made things worse.

Atletico probably could have done better to increase the active playing area, especially by getting their full-backs involved in the attacking phase of the game more, but eventually they simply tired Valencia out. When Miguel was sent-off in the final ten minutes, Valencia were forced into a 3-4-1 shape, and the game was over as a contest.

Hard to take much from the match as a whole, aside from the fact that if you face a side down to 10 men and playing 4-4-1, you have to stretch the play and get full-backs forward. And, to give Quique Sanchez Flores credit, there’s no need to panic if you have a man advantage and don’t go ahead – keep on passing and tiring the opposition, and the goal will come.

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