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Atlético de Madrid qualify for the quarterfinals with a great game at Cornellà (1-1)

Agüero scores a fine goal and Luis García levels in stoppage time

Atlético de Madrid are into the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, in which they will take on Real Madrid, first next week at the Santiago Bernabéu and then at the Vicente Calderón. The ‘rojiblancos’ finished things off by playing a superb match against a combative Espanyol side that was unable to come back against a team that operated well in all of their lines from beginning to end. Things began well for the visitors with a fine goal from Kun Agüero, who was sensational all game long and could have scored two or three more, and Luis García equalised from a free kick in injury time, when the tie had already been decided.

Atlético de Madrid and Espanyol were facing off for the third time in just over a month with a balance of one win for each club. The league encounter went to the ‘pericos’ in a match in which Quique Sánchez Flores’ lads didn’t deserve to lose, while the first leg Cup match went to the side from Madrid, thanks to a goal from Simão in his final game as a ‘rojiblanco’ before heading to Turkish club Besiktas.

Things kicked off in exciting fashion, with Espanyol throwing themselves forward in search of the goal which would even up the qualifying tie and Atlético de Madrid well-positioned on the pitch, with Raúl García and Reyes on the wings and Assunçao and Mario Suárez in the central midfield. The Espanyol supporters were especially sensitive after feeling that recent officiating performances have punished them and protested everything whistled by Pérez Lasa, especially at the start, when Sergio García fell inside the area just two minutes in.

The first shot for the home squad came one minute later with a tough shot from Álvaro that flew high over De Gea’s goal. In this action-packed beginning, there was a play that could have hurt Atlético, as a cross from the left wing was not dealt with by Perea and De Gea had to punch away before two Espanyol strikers could get there.

This was a typical Cup fixture and, as such, there was plenty of back-and-forth. Atlético didn’t want to just sit back and their first attack left the home fans holding their breath. In the 10th minute a cross from Reyes from the left found Raúl García on the far end of the area, and the Spaniard connected on a furious volley that beat Cristian Álvarez but thundered violently off the crossbar.

It was the first warning from Atlético, but another wasn’t necessary for the scoreboard to light up in the visitors favour. Mario Suárez contested a ball in the midfield, and the rebound fell to Raúl García, who first-timed a long pass through to Kun, who burst through several defenders and unleashed an unstoppable shot that bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net. It was a goal that brought Atlético a step closer to the quarterfinals.

Espanyol felt the blow and were slightly knocked out, at the mercy of an Atlético de Madrid side that now had the match in their hands and the qualifying tie with passage to the next round practically in the bag. But as they wanted to finish things off completely as quickly as possible, the attacks from the ‘rojiblancos’ were lethal. First, a play by Diego Costa down the right flank saw the Brazilian send in a low cross that got past Kun but found Reyes all alone at the far post. The winger’s shot beat Cristian back across the face of the goal but an Espanyol defender cleared the ball off the line in minute 33.

Shortley thereafter, in the 41st minute, a wall pass between Filipe Luis and Agüero led to the new captain zigzagging between defenders inside the area, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner. A minute later Kun had a goal disallowed for a highly doubtful offside call and, to wrap up the first half, Agüero showed off the best he has in his repertoire by escaping down the right flank, dribbling by each and every defender who crossed his path, skipped into the area and had his shot blocked by a defender and resulting in a corner kick.

The second half began, logically, on the other half, with Espanyol desperately in need of goals. Dátolo gave warning right after the re-start with a cross-shot that skimmed off the face of the crossbar. Atlético de Madrid were forced into a substitution when Assunçao was injured in the 60th minute, shortly after Valera had come on for Ujfalusi, who had been booked and was on the verge of leaving Atleti a man down. At that moment Pochettino decided to go for broke by sending on Luis García and Iván Alonso.

Luis García tested De Gea just two minutes after taking the pitch with a blistering shot that was responded to by the Spanish keeper with a flying save. The Espanyol striker followed this up with a shot that was deflected by a sliding defender onto the outside of the corner of the goal frame. These were some of the final warnings from the home squad, because the control of the match returned to the ‘rojiblancos’, as Agüero had another scoring chance, as did Reyes minutes later.

The game ended after Luis García sent a free kick into the upper corner of the goal to prevent another loss against Atlético de Madrid in the Cup, but the passport to the quarterfinals had already been stamped by Quique Sánchez Flores’ men, who were able to play the match as they wanted to. Now Real Madrid await them next week at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg match of the quarterfinals.
 
ESPANYOL, 1 (Luis García); ATLÉTICO DE MADRID, 1 (Agüero)
 
Espanyol: Cristian Álvarez; Chica (Javi López, 81’), Forlín, Amat, Didac; Duscher, Javi Márquez; Dátolo, Verdú (Luis García, 58’), Sergio García; and Álvaro (Iván Alonso, 67’).
 
Atlético de Madrid: De Gea; Ujfalusi (Valera, 55’), Perea, Domínguez, Filipe Luis; Raúl García, Mario Suárez, Assunçao (Koke, 60’), Reyes; Agüero and Diego Costa (Antonio López, 79’).
 
Referee:
Pérez Lasa. For Espanyol showed yellow cards to Luis García (66’), Amat (74’), Duscher (85’), Dátolo (89’), Forlín (90’) and Iván Alonso (94’); and for Atlético booked Raúl García (37’), Ujfalusi (43’) and Diego Costa (49’).
 
Incidents: Estadio Cornellà-El Prat. Copa del Rey round of 16 return leg fixture. 25,212 spectators. Alberto Perea was the player dropped from the final squad list.  

GOALS:
0-1.     24’. Mario Suárez steals a ball in the midfield and Raúl García sends a through ball to Agüero, who uses his pace to carry the ball into the area and beat Cristian Álvarez off the bottom of the crossbar.
1-1.     94’. Luis García scores on a free kick from the top of the area.


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