Atlético Madrid were left ruing their wasted dominance as Valencia clinically tore the Colchoneros apart with a late double salvo, robbing the visitors of two points at the death.
Sunday’s match got off to a bad start after only six minutes as Kieran Trippier was forced off with what looked like a serious shoulder problem. It remains to be seen how long Atlético will be without the first-choice right-wing-back, with his absence compounded by Marcos Llorente’s own injury.
But Atleti began to dominate, boasting all the possession. Rodrigo De Paul dominated the midfield, dictating tempo and creating chances.
It was Luis Suárez who opened the deadlock, one touch being all he needed to drift past Mouctar Diakhaby and send a shot of equal elegance to the far post, with the ball zipping into the opposite side netting.
After half-time, the home side emerged with more confidence and determination. Gonçalo Guedes hustled down the right flank, slicing the ball back across the face of goal, where it deflected off Stefan Savić’s thigh and past Jan Oblak.
Atlético reacted strongly though, and sought to reinstate their dominance. Valencia continued to push, but were run ragged on the counter. Antoine Griezmann, as if inspired by Suárez’s elegant first goal, glided from his own half deep into the Valencia half and fired a rocket into the top corner.
As if to balance the books after two goals of style and guile, Atlético’s third came with a goalmouth scramble more akin to black-and-white English football clips. Šime Vrsaljko, who replaced Trippier early on, got the final touch to bundle the ball over the line. A VAR review ensued, but confirmed the goal’s legality, the Croatian’s first in LaLiga.
Atlético were coasting. Then disaster struck. Twice in four minutes.
Swept away on the counter, Atleti’s midfield was easily bypassed, the ball landing at left-back José Luis Gayà’s feet. The Valencia captain crossed to Hugo Duro, who stretched out a leg quicker than any Atleti defender to turn the ball into the bottom corner.
The first of Duro’s brace left Atlético defenders so shell-shocked that they couldn’t defend a free-kick in the 96th minute. Duro ran to the near post and flicked the ball beyond Oblak, lost in the crowd of blue and white in his goalmouth.
Atlético had to endure the pain of a late leveller, just as they have inflicted upon Villarreal, Espanyol and Getafe already so far this season. But at Mestalla, their luck ran out. At Mestalla, it was Atleti whose slack defending was punished, and Atleti being sent back to the Spanish capital, tail between legs.
VAL XI Cillessen; Foulquier, Diakhaby, Alderete (Vallejo 86’), Gayà; Guillamón; Soler (Koindredi 85’), Wass (Marcos André 65’), Račić (Musah 65’), Hélder Costa (Duro 85’); Guedes.
Goals Savić o.g. 50’, Duro 90’+1 90’+6
ATM XI Oblak; Savić, Giménez, Hermoso, Trippier (Vrsaljko 8’), Carrasco; Koke, De Paul (Félix 86’); Correa (Kondogbia 73’), Griezmann, Suárez (Herrera 86’).
Goals Suárez 35’ Griezmann 58’ Vrsaljko 61’