The combined first half shot total between Atlético Madrid and Sevilla. What a wild opening 45 minutes — well, 51, if you count the six minutes of stoppage time.
Amidst the backdrop of a fearsome “Amor Cortes” tifo, Luuk de Jong took full advantage of a failed Stefan Savić slide tackle to fire the visitors ahead on 19 minutes. Atlético responded on 32 minutes through Álvaro Morata’s razor-sharp penalty — the striker’s first league goal of 2020. VAR could have awarded the spot kick both for a handball or a Nemanja Gudelj foul in the six-yard box. Four minutes later, João Félix grabbed his second goal in three games, aided by a quick Koke pass and a fortunate deflection.
As if this all wasn’t chaotic enough, VAR directed referee Hernández Hernández to award another penalty on 43 minutes — this time to Sevilla for an...erm...dubious foul on Kieran Trippier.
You be the judge:
Atlético’s league-high draw total this season. It’s better to pick up one point than zero points, but Atleti needed all three on Saturday. Diego Simeone’s side will stay at least a point out of a Champions League place with 11 games to go in what is starting to become a desperate situation for the team.
Los Colchoneros ran out of gas after all the first half madness and ended with just three shots on target from 21(!) attempts. Sevilla’s dodgy penalty aside, it’s hard to argue that Atlético deserved more out of this match — or even deserve a top-four place based on the balance of the season. The team has won eight of the past 24 league games, and will set the all-time club record for single-season stalemates with two more over the final 11 weeks.
João Félix’s pass accuracy percentage. He faded in the second half again and picked up a yellow card that will see him miss next weekend’s game in Bilbao. But the Portuguese was sensational in the first half, and he’s starting to get hot as we enter spring — just like he did last season, at Benfica.
The 20-year-old recorded three shots and three key passes, and he was not asked to do much defensive work against a Sevilla team that ranks among LaLiga’s leaders in ball possession. This is the João Félix who will need to offer Atlético precious respite against a relentless Liverpool side on Wednesday.
The number of starts Marcos Llorente has rung up in LaLiga this season, including Saturday. Sure, Llorente took the injured Héctor Herrera’s spot in the pecking order, but the former academy kid has earned what Simeone has offered him. The 25-year-old has completed 90 minutes in four of his past five league appearances, and he seems at home shading Ángel Correa on the right as further defensive cover. In that position, he can use his freakish athleticism and serious speed to win the ball.
That said, Llorente cannot control a game like Thomas Partey. Atlético really missed the suspended midfielder in the first half, when the match was played at a breakneck pace and could have used the Ghanaian’s steady style.
The approximate distance in miles between Madrid and Liverpool. That is where Atlético head next, 90 minutes from completing a huge upset over the reigning European and world champions.