Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone was left ‘speechless’ after his team found a way to win against Espanyol on Saturday.
Having thrashed Milan 4-1 on Tuesday to advance to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, Atletico Madrid struggled against Espanyol in La Liga but still managed to claim the crucial three points.
After league leaders Real Madrid had knocked off Malaga by a solitary goal earlier on Saturday to move six points clear at the top of the table, Atletico responded with their own 1-0 victory to stay within three of their city rivals in the race for the title.
Simeone was thrilled with his team’s endeavour and ability to claim a win even when they did not play at their best.
“We were not accurate in the first half and we weren’t fast enough, or playing between the lines,” the Argentine said.
“The players are doing something extraordinary. I am speechless because they do their best to find results. I have admiration for this group of players.”
Diego Costa was again the match-winner for Atletico, getting on the end of David Villa’s pass in the 55th minute at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, before slotting a low shot past Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
While Espanyol finished the match with the same number of shots (eight) as Atleti, and four on target compared to the home side’s two, Simeone claimed his team were rarely in too much danger.
“It has been difficult because we were one to zero, not because of goal situations,” Simeone said.
“Until you score the second (goal), the unrest appears in any situation.
“What we did handle well; they had no great occasions, although they were able to attack.”
Costa made it five goals in his past six matches for Atleti and, while Simeone was not pleased with the Brazilian-born striker’s first half, the 43-year-old praised his forward’s patience.
“He was not focused in the first half. I like how he came out of difficulties,” Simeone said.
“He found the diagonal or the right pass. He waited quietly his time, and that is what I have taken from his game. Moving from the difficulty to virtue with confidence in himself.”