Elche 0-1 Atletico Madrid: LaLiga leaders survive late penalty scare to stay top for Barcelona clash

By Sports Desk May 01, 2021

Elche captain Fidel missed a stoppage-time penalty as Atletico Madrid picked up a narrow 1-0 win to tighten their grip on top spot in LaLiga ahead of next week's huge showdown with Barcelona.

Diego Simeone's side lost 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao last weekend and were fortunate to avoid another slip-up against relegation-threatened Elche in Saturday's contest at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.

Marcos Llorente scored what proved to be the all important goal for Atleti with his 12th league strike of the campaign in the 23rd minute after Luis Suarez had one chalked off for a marginal offside.

However, Elche wasted a glorious chance to snatch a share of the spoils in the 91st minute as Fidel fired a penalty against the post, meaning Atletico move ​five points clear of Real Madrid and Barca, who both have a game in hand to play.

Related items

  • Rangnick urges Sancho to replicate training performance on the pitch Rangnick urges Sancho to replicate training performance on the pitch

    Ralf Rangnick has urged Jadon Sancho to start replicating his training performance on the pitch for Manchester United after a hugely disappointing start to life at Old Trafford.

    United spent a reported £72million on Sancho in pre-season, his move from Borussia Dortmund being long in the making after the club spent well over a year courting him.

    Having left Manchester City as a teenager, Sancho blossomed into one of Europe's most promising young players in the Bundesliga – his haul of 51 non-penalty goal involvements over 2019-20 and 2020-21 was bettered by just five players across the top five European leagues.

    Of those 51, 27 were assists, with Thomas Muller (39), Kevin De Bruyne (32) and Lionel Messi (27) the only three to boast a higher tally.

    While some critics have argued Sancho's 16.0 expected assists (xA) in that time shows that his form was unsustainable, that was still an extremely high figure as he ranked 11th among the same group of players.

    He has found life a little harder at United, though, registering just two goals as his only goal involvements. He ranks fifth in the squad for xA (2.0) and sixth for non-penalty xG (2.2) across all competitions, and this is not even a team that is thriving.

    The England international came in for criticism after a particularly anonymous substitute appearance in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, though it would seem the Sancho playing in matches is almost unrecognisable to the one Rangnick sees in training.

    "Whenever I see him train, he's showing that he's one of the best players in the training sessions," Rangnick said.

    "But now it's about transferring that to when he's playing, and showing the same kind of level and performance on the pitch.

    "I said that to him, by the way, the day before yesterday: 'Confirm the performances you show in training when you're playing on the pitch.'

    "For me, it's not at all a question of his position. It's clear that in a 4-3-3 he's a player for either of the two wing positions, either left or right. He can play both.

    "I think he would prefer a little bit the left side, because he can then switch inside and have a go on goal or shoot on goal with his strong foot.

    "But for me, there's no question, no doubt about his position. He's a winger. He's somebody who can dribble fast with ball, and for me it's not at all a question of which is the best possible position for him."

    Pressed for a potential explanation for Sancho's struggles, Rangnick was hardly definitive, but he did offer a few theories, namely greater demands physically and psychologically.

    "It's difficult to say. I think it's a different league, it's a different competition. It's more physical," Rangnick continued.

    "Now he's playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world. I think it's also got to do with a lot of different things up here in his head. It's a difference if you come as an 18-year-old, unknown, a talented English boy to Borussia Dortmund.

    "From then on, you can only improve; you can only make a success out of that. The level of expectation was a lot lower compared to the situation when, at the age of 21, you come to a club like Manchester United for a high transfer fee, with a high level of expectation.

    "Everybody expected from him that he would be one of the best players in the team. Again, this is psychologically, emotionally a more challenging situation than the one he had at Borussia Dortmund, and these are exactly the kind of steps that he has to make to become a top player for the next 10 years for this club."

    Rangnick is optimistic Sancho will rediscover his confidence with a few more decisive actions in the final third, though he did warn the 21-year-old that only he can take those steps, there is only so much those helping him can do.

    "With those kinds of players, creative, offensive players, it's all about confidence. It's all about having that confidence, being aware how good they can be and then showing it in front of 75,000, or 45,000 at Villa Park.

    "Of course, in the end he has to do that. He has [to make] that step again. As I said, in most training sessions he's training on a very high level. Now it's about having the transfer onto the pitch in the Premier League, in the FA Cup and in the Champions League.

    "He can do that; he has the ability to do that. There is no doubt about that, but now we have to develop him into that kind of player, showing the same kind of performances that he showed at Borussia Dortmund.

    "We can give him the guidelines, we can give him helping hands and show him that we are trying to accompany him on this way, and give all the necessary assistance that he needs, but in the end it's up to him to take those next steps."

  • Middleton admits Bucks need a Holiday from sorry slide as Grizzlies come into view Middleton admits Bucks need a Holiday from sorry slide as Grizzlies come into view

    Khris Middleton wants the Milwaukee Bucks to "own it and learn from it" after another painful defeat again highlighted their struggles without Jrue Holiday.

    Going down 121-114 to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday meant the Bucks have lost four of their last five games.

    Middleton's 34 points, and 27 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, could not propel Milwaukee to victory as they conceded 38 points in the fourth quarter.

    The team's ball handling in Holiday's six-game absence has often not been clever, and the sooner the starting point guard returns, the better for the Bucks.

    The Bucks have a 4-9 record when Holiday has been absent from the team this season, and his latest absence has been them slide to 27-19 for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

    Sidelined by ankle soreness and COVID-19 protocols, Holiday also missed the win over the Brooklyn Nets that preceded the slide. Before that, he was showing exemplary form, averaging 23.9 points and 7.9 assists in his most recent 10 games, way above his season averages which now stand at 18.4 points and 6.7 assists.

    "I've been playing with Giannis for years, so I know his spots where he wants the ball, how to get it to him, but Jrue adds another layer of that, where he's able to attack and get other guys going, including Giannis," Middleton said.

    "I don't think it's on me to get Giannis going. I feel like Giannis gets himself going for the most part. Every now and then, I feel like I'm able to get him an easy one, but same thing with Jrue.

    "We're just missing an extra playmaker, extra scorer, extra defender, an extra player out there."

    Antetokounmpo had eight-of-20 shooting from the field in Monday's setback, and managed just six rebounds. Only once this season has he had fewer rebounds.

    The Greek superstar leads the team with averages of 28.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and a field-goal percentage of 53.5 per cent, but there are nights when he cannot make a match-winning difference.

    Middleton said the Hawks game "was a tough one to drop", and now the Bucks must regroup for a tussle with the 31-15 Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.

    "We need to find a way to be smarter, be better," Middleton said. "Just gotta own it, learn from it, try to be better."

    Coach Mike Budenholzer struck a similar tone, saying the reigning NBA champions have "a lot of areas where we need to be significantly better", adding: "We need more from everybody."

  • Umtiti out for three months after foot surgery Umtiti out for three months after foot surgery

    Samuel Umtiti is expected to be out of action for around three months after undergoing surgery on a fractured metatarsal, Barcelona have announced. 

    France international Umtiti had a procedure on his right foot on Tuesday and will be consigned to the sidelines until April at the earliest. 

    A club statement read: "Samuel Umtiti has undergone successful surgery on the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. 

    "Tuesday's operation was performed by Dr Antoni Dalmau under supervision of the FC Barcelona Medical Services. He is expected to be out of action for around three months. 

    "The French centre-back suffered the fracture in training on Monday." 

    Umtiti this month signed a new contract that tied him to Camp Nou until 2026, despite having been heavily linked with an exit.  

    The World Cup-winning defender's three-year extension included a temporary pay decrease that allowed new signing Ferran Torres to be registered. 

    Umtiti has long been a peripheral figure at Barcelona, featuring in just 17 games in all competitions since the start of last season.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.