Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone was satisfied with a point after their 1-1 draw at home to Valencia in La Liga.
Simeone’s side trailed after five minutes in front of their Estadio Vicente Calderon faithful, but Radamel Falcao quickly levelled proceedings just 90 seconds later with a deft volley.
The Spaniard declared he was ‘proud’ of his squad’s effort to challenge the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid, with his side sitting in third place – only a point behind their city rivals.
“Valencia were better in the first half. I always warned about their skills,” Simeone said.
“They have a good enough squad to be where they have always been. They are so competitive, skilful, balanced and they showed so in the first half. “
Simeone said the tide turned his side’s way after the half-time interval, though, which he claimed was evident by rival coach Ernesto Valverde’s tactical changes.
“We didn’t perform well then but we were lucky and the most of the little chances we created making the first goal. After the break, we settled and we managed to turn the game in our favour,” he said.
Simeone added: “They put (Aly) Cissokho on to replace (Nelson) Valdez which proves we were better in the second half.
“Picking up points is always important. We keep our gap with Valencia (sixth, 15 points behind). Sometimes if you can’t win then a draw is OK.
“Valencia played Champions League, we played Europa League. Valencia have one of the best squads in La Liga … possibly the best after Real Madrid and Barcelona.”
Valverde agreed his side had the better of the opening 45 minutes, before Atletico finished with a wet sail.
“We were better in the first half. We controlled the game. So going into the break at 1-1 made us think they were going to put more pressure on us in the second,” Valverde said.
“Because we didn’t convert our control in goals and they know perfectly how to counter-attack.
“We had to limit ourselves in the centre because of their pressure. The first half was ours but you have to score.
“They got the draw straight away so we couldn’t make the most of a situation with more spaces when your rival is losing and pushing forward. The pressure they put on us in the second was predictable.”