Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone paid tribute to the mental strength of his team after they bounced back from their UEFA Champions League exit with a 3-0 win over Elche on Saturday.
An 85th-minute Javier Hernandez goal consigned Atletico to a 1-0 aggregate European defeat to bitter rivals Real Madrid on Wednesday, with Simeone’s side – last year’s beaten finalists – failing to reach the semis of Europe’s elite competition this time around.
Although Atletico were poor in the first half against Elche at Vicente Calderon, a much-improved display after the interval led to Antoine Griezmann’s brace and a Raul Garcia strike.
The reaction to Wednesday’s disappointment left Simeone impressed, while he also gave a veiled response to Bayern Munich president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s criticism of Atletico’s style of play during the week.
“I see it as the team competing well,” he told reporters. “I have a lot of men in the team. We are being competitive and we’ll carry on being competitive whether people like it or not.
“What I was pleased to see was the reaction of the team after the blow of the other day.
“Last May we lost the Champions League and in August we won the Super Cup. I am proud of the squad I’ve got.
“We can play well one day and not so well the next. We can defend higher up the pitch or further back.
“But that’s all just hot air. The fact is that we are competing to be among the three top-placed teams in the league.
“We’re having a competitive season and I’m happy with the work we’re doing. It’s difficult to have your fans singing that they’re proud of their players. Madrid beat us in the 178th minute of the [Champions League] tie.”