CORNELLA DE LLOBREGAT, Spain – Forward Sergio Garcia’s 88 minute goal at Espanyol’s RCDE Stadium on Friday helped his team defeat Atletico Madrid 1-0, thereby inflicting Atletico’s first defeat in the Spanish league this season and ending their 20-match unbeaten run in the league, that stretches to the last season.
Espanyol, which is managed by Quique Sanchez Flores, resisted intimidation in the situation and kept searching for that goal until they found it shortly before full-time.
The Catalan team can now breathe easy after a poor December which had earlier seen them lose two matches and draw against Las Palmas – currently at the bottom of the league – while Atletico, who are managed by Diego Simeone, pause to regroup.
The match started amid nerves and controversy, as the home team claimed that Filipe Luis had handled the ball after six minutes of play.
Going ahead, the hosts put on a show that was aggressive and intense, while Atletico persisted with their signature style of play.
In the first 15 minutes of the game, there were no clear advances towards the goal by either team, but with the clock at the 18-minute mark, Espanyol’s Leo Baptistao found himself alone in front of goalkeeper Jan Oblak, only for his lob to go excessively wide off the mark.
From this moment onward, Espanyol fine tuned its attack and Gerard Moreno was particularly impressive, while Atletico struggled to reach their opponent’s half.
In the 40th minute of play, Atletico claimed a penalty after striker Antoine Griezmann had fallen in the area, but the referee saw no contact with goalkeeper Pau Lopez and the score was 0-0 at half-time.
After the match resumed, Simeone’s team continued to fail making clear approaches toward the goal and the initiative was taken by Espanyol, although they found no success.
At the 63rd minute mark, Simeone substituted Thomas with Angel Correa to boost his team’s attack, while at that point Quique did not want to change the lineup.
With the clock reading 69 minutes, the referee disallowed a goal by Atletico’s Diego Godin after he had pushed an opponent on his way to scoring with a header.
Kevin Gameiro had a golden opportunity after 76 minutes, as only Pau Lopez was in front, but his shot was safely caught by the goalkeeper.
In the last 15 minutes, the proportion of inaccuracy increased until Garcia scored off Esteban Granero’s cross in the 88th minute and sealed the game.