Luca de la Torre’s efficient outing for Celta Vigo went to waste as they lost late to Atletico, while Yunus Musah and Valencia continued their slide to the bottom with another needless loss.
Celta Vigo 0 – 1 Atletico Madrid
Despite holding strong for 89 minutes against surging Atletico Madrid, Luca de la Torre and Celta Vigo will see Sunday afternoon’s narrow loss as a missed opportunity to climb further from the relegation places.
The USMNT player started to the left of center in his team’s five-man midfield, playing the full 86 minutes as the team held off their Champions League hunting opponents.
He had a total of 43 touches, completed an accurate 28 of his 29 passing attempts, took one shot, set up a further three chances, was accurate on his combined two crosses and long-ball attempts, however did commit four fouls.
Despite the gulf in the standings separating the two teams, little separated them on their on-field battle, as moments of real danger were few and far between until after the halftime break.
In the 47th minute, Atletico’s Álvaro Morata saw his attempt from just inside the area blocked and Yannick Carrasco’s follow-up roll just wide, then less than ten minutes later a shot from Iago Aspas nearly rolled over the line, only for Jan Oblak to claw the ball to safety within millimeters of the score.
Atletico looked to be forced to scrap for a road draw when Stefan Savic was shown a straight red for pulling down Haris Seferovic as the last defender in the 70th minute, although the resulting free kick from Aspas clanged frustratingly off the crossbar.
Celta ramped up the pressure and saw a number of chances go wanting over the final minutes, with de la Torre setting up Joseph Aidoo for a short attempt in the 76th minute that missed barely wide left.
With four minutes remaining, Franco Cervi was brought on for the American in an attempt to inject a pair of fresh legs, however it was Atletico who would be celebrating at the final whistle after a lucky winner.
Carrasco chased the ball down near the left endline deep in Celta territory, cut back towards the middle, and made an attempt at the lower left corner. His shot was immediately blocked in the crowed of defenders, but the deflection landed at the foot of Memphis Depay for a sweeping, off-balance shot past Iván Villar for the winner.
Highlights of the game can be seen here.
Celta occupy 14th place after the loss, and will face a tough test when they visit third-place Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Valencia CF 1 – 2 Athletic Bilbao
Yunus Musah and Valencia continued their slide under interim coach Voro on Saturday, wasting an early lead in their home loss to Athletic Bilbao.
As usual, Musah occupied the right side of the team’s midfield, completing 88% of his 25 passes, taking one shot, winning four of five duels and one of his two tackle attempts, before exiting the game in the 69th minute with what looked to be a minor leg injury.
Valencia were hit even earlier by the injury bug after veteran Uruguayan forward Édinson Cavani was forced out in the 16th minute, with Hugo Duro taking up the slack.
However, only seconds later, Samuel Castillejo finished off a fine attacking sequence by the hosts by taking a pass from Ilaix Moriba in the middle, and angling his shot between Inigo Lekue’s legs to the lower right corner for the opener.
However, Nico Williams equalized for the visitors just before the half-hour, making a quartet of Valencia defenders look like stationary cement blocks, before hitting his shot that took a slight deflection off of Giorgi Mamardashvili’s foot on its way into the net.
In the 62nd minute, Musah had narrow angle of opportunity from outside the area, but his shot sailed a yard wide to the right.
Three minutes after he was subbed out for Toni Lato due to taking a knock, the visitors earned their winner. Iker Muniain forced the Valencia defense to choke up the ball deep in their own territory, then poked it forward into the are to Inaki Williams. The Ghanaian international then fired a low cross to Oihan Sancet, who buried his winner just inside the right post.
Highlights of the game can be seen here.
Valencia drop into the bottom three with the loss, continuing the trajectory that began as soon as they returned from the winter break. They will visit Getafe on Monday, February 20 in a surprising relegation six-pointer.
Neither Luca Koleosho nor Jonathan Gomez will likely be in uniform for their respective teams on Monday night when Espanyol host Real Sociedad.
Samuel Shashoua was not included in the roster for Tenerife’s 2-0 road loss at Grenada on Friday night.