Simeone delighted by 'personality, pride, hard work' in dramatic Atletico victory

By Sports Desk April 17, 2022

Diego Simeone hailed 10-man Atletico Madrid for displaying their "personality, pride and hard work" in a dramatic 2-1 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.

Substitutes Matheus Cunha and Yannick Carrasco combined in the 52nd minute, with the latter opening the scoring with Atletico's first shot on target at the Wanda Metropolitano.

However, Geoffrey Kondogbia was dismissed for two bookable offences, with Raul de Tomas restoring parity immediately after by squeezing a free-kick under Jan Oblak.

Atletico's grasp on Champions League qualification was seemingly slipping until Carrasco converted a penalty in the 10th minute of stoppage time after De Tomas was adjudged by the VAR to have handled.

Victory moved the reigning LaLiga champions level on points, at least temporarily, with Sevilla and Barcelona and three clear of fifth-placed Real Betis, who were held at Real Sociedad on Friday.

Simeone's side have collected more points than any other LaLiga side this season with goals in the 90th minute or later (10 points), and the Atletico boss was delighted with his team's spirited response.

"With the sending-off comes fatigue, the goal, one less player, 20 minutes to go and the team kept looking, taking risks, with great effort from everyone," he told reporters after the game. 

"You come from the hit four days ago [after being eliminated by Manchester City in the Champions League] after playing a good game, it's not easy and these guys played with personality, pride and hard work.

"We then benefited from that penalty and Carrasco showed his courage to finish it."

Atletico have failed to score in the first half in their last four games in all competitions, having had just one shot on target in those halves, and Simeone acknowledged changes were needed at half-time.

He introduced Antoine Griezmann, Cunha and match-winner Carrasco, changes that offered Atletico the impact Simeone sought after.

"Carrasco scored a very important goal for our league position, we came from a very big effort and a bad game in Mallorca [1-0 defeat]. Today, the first half was a struggle but the second was more dynamic."

Carrasco expressed his delight to Movistar after the game but conceded Atletico have no chance of catching leaders Real Madrid, who could go 15 points clear at the LaLiga summit with victory at Sevilla.

"Very happy, it was a difficult game," he said. "We were winning, then 10 against 11 we have continued to push and very happy with the victory that brings us closer to the goal.

"[The title race] is over, we still have games left in LaLiga and we have to continue. This match is important for us for morale and to continue working."

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