Diego Simeone 'grateful' to Atletico Madrid after 400th LaLiga match

By Sports Desk May 11, 2022

A relieved Diego Simeone credited the work of his players after Atletico Madrid marked his 400th LaLiga game in charge with a 2-0 win away to Elche on Wednesday.

Atleti also secured Champions League qualification with the victory, opening up a six-point gap to fifth-placed Real Betis via goals from Matheus Cunha and Rodrigo de Paul.

In Simeone's 11 years at the club, Atleti have been able to disrupt the hegemony of Barcelona and Real Madrid, winning LaLiga, the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup twice, as well the Copa del Rey.

Simeone showed humility after the win, saying the support he has at the club is rare, allowing for such an uncommonly long tenure.

"It's an important moment because if it weren't for all the players who have passed through the club it would be impossible," he said post-match. "I am grateful and lucky because the club has always supported me. The back and forth is there, but I thank all the players that were here over this time and allowed me to have this possibility.

"I'm happy for the players, who had an irregular season. We competed very well in the Champions League and in LaLiga we couldn't maintain regularity.

"The goal has already arrived. Deserved, we worked hard and that makes us return to the Champions League for another year. This is very important for the club."

As noted by Simeone, it has been an irregular season by Atleti's notoriously conservative and defensive standards on the pitch.

The 41 goals the Colchoneros have conceded this term in the league make for the most over a full season since he took over as coach in December 2011.

Tensions have simmered in that respect and it was apparent again at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, with Jan Oblak and Renan Lodi sharing a heated exchange before Cunha's opener.

After Wednesday's win, the 52-year-old conceded the defensive decline has been a difficult trade-off for stronger potency in attack, but had no issue with the Oblak and Lodi argument.

"If there are discussions, it's good because the players are in the game and they're alive," he said. "I like this kind of thing because I feel that the players are in the game.

"I think this the year we've scored the most goals since I've been at the club. Also opponents have scored the most on us.

"That's the balance that it cost us to find. We had Savic and Gimenez out, Reinildo did us a lot of good. He works very seriously and with humility. In front of goal we scored a lot of goals"

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  • Bellingham would be a 'fantastic signing' for Liverpool, says Barnes Bellingham would be a 'fantastic signing' for Liverpool, says Barnes

    Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham is the exact type of player Liverpool should be targeting and would make a "great signing" for the club.

    That is according to John Barnes, who also told Stats Perform he believes the Reds missed a trick by not bringing in Yves Bissouma, who has now signed for Tottenham.

    Liverpool have already been active this window, having added Darwin Nunez and Fabio Carvalho to their attack to compensate for the loss of Sadio Mane, who has joined Bayern Munich.

    Jurgen Klopp's side continue to be linked with an array of other players, with Dortmund star and England international Bellingham a rumoured target.

    Bellingham has made a big impact for the Bundesliga giants since arriving from Birmingham City two seasons ago, and Barnes would like to see him return to English football.

    "I think he's a fantastic player," Barnes said of Bellingham. "Another player who I like to have thought would have suited Liverpool, but went to Tottenham, is Yves Bissouma.

    "Obviously that's not there anymore because he's gone to Tottenham, but that's the template of the type of midfield player we want. 

    "A hardworking midfield player, probably more defensive than attacking, who may not score many goals but works hard, wins the ball, gets it forward to the front three quickly. 

    "Jude Bellingham is similar [to Bissouma]. He probably has a little bit more quality on the ball. He's English, he's young, that would be a fantastic signing for us. 

    "But it probably isn't going to happen this year. Hopefully next season we could make that signing."

    Despite still being aged 18, Bellingham started 44 games for Dortmund in all competitions in the 2021-22 season – four more than any other player.

    He has also racked up 15 senior caps for England and became the youngest player to represent his country in a major tournament at last year's Euro 2020.

    While speculation surrounding Bellingham's future looks set to continue, Liverpool have already spent big to sign Nunez from Benfica.

    The Uruguay international starred in the Primeira Liga and Champions League and will help fill the void left by Mane's move to Bayern.

    Nunez joins Liverpool after netting 48 goals in 85 appearances for Benfica in total, finishing as the top scorer in the Portuguese top flight in the 2021-22 campaign with 26 strikes.

    But while Liverpool may have splashed out a reported £64million (€75m) to sign the striker, with a further £21.4m in potential add-ons, Barnes believes he will need time to adjust.

    "He's coming to a new country, he's young, he's coming to new environments and new team, he has to be given time," Barnes said. 

    "Now if he's like [Diogo] Jota, for example, he hits the ground running, that's a bonus, but I don't expect him to come in and all of a sudden take to the team straightaway.

    "We've seen times that players, like [Roberto] Firmino for example, took time to adjust. Thiago [Alcantara] is another who took time to adjust.

    "I think they've done their homework and knowing that they can fit him into the template of what they actually want.

    "But I'm not putting expectations on him all of a sudden to be the best player on the team and for everything to be seamless. 

    "Jurgen Klopp has done his homework and will feel that he can get the best out of him within the framework of the team. So I'm expecting him to be successful in time."

  • Bagnaia vows to fight Quartararo all the way after clinching pole in Assen Bagnaia vows to fight Quartararo all the way after clinching pole in Assen

    Francesco Bagnaia vowed to fight Fabio Quartararo all the way after giving his slim MotoGP title chances a much-needed boost with pole position for the Dutch Grand Prix.

    The Ducati rider fell 91 points behind Quartararo last week when crashing out of the German Grand Prix early on – his fourth abandonment in 10 races this season.

    But Bagnaia, who has won two of his past five Dutch GP appearances, looked in good shape on Saturday when shattering the lap record at Circuit Assen with a time of 1:31.504.

    Victory in the Netherlands on Sunday is needed if the Italian is realistically going to catch Quartararo, with four other riders separating last season's top two.

    After an intense battle on the opening lap in Sachsenring last time out, Bagnaia is aiming to come out on top in round 11 to put some pressure on his rival.

    "For sure, Fabio on this track is always so competitive. I would like to have a fight but this time until the end of the race, not just the first two laps," he said.

    "I think it's more difficult on this track to open a gap, but we have demonstrated we can be so competitive in the first laps, Fabio too."

    Bagnaia, who has claimed four poles this year, pitted after his record lap as he did not believe anyone would be capable of matching his pace.

    "That’s the reason I stopped in the box, because I said 'doing more than this is impossible'. If someone did overtake me, I would be OK with it," he said.

    "But I'm very happy for this qualifying because this morning I was struggling a lot to be consistent and competitive."

    Championship leader Quartararo once again missed out on pole, yet he has made a habit of recovering as the weekend goes on this season.

    And as he seeks a third successive victory for the first time in his MotoGP career, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider declared himself pleased with his performance in qualifying.

    "I'm happy to have made that front row with the army of Ducatis around me. It's almost impossible to make a pole position with these Ducatis," he said.

    "I was really on the limit [for my fastest lap] and on the next lap I wanted to try but I knew it was going to be a little bit worse. Today, the front row was the target."

    Pramac's Jorge Martin will start Sunday's race in third, while Jack Miller of Ducati finished sixth in qualifying but was penalised for an incident involving Maverick Vinales.

    Miller narrowly avoided colliding with Vinales and will serve a long lap penalty for the second weekend running, though the Australian felt there was nothing he could do.

    Speaking ahead of the penalty being confirmed, Miller said: "I mean, I didn't do anything wrong. I did everything I could right. I pulled over to the left.

    "I was side-saddle from push starting it. I was just trying to load my foot up and make sure that the [damaged] footpeg wasn't going to snap as I stood on it with all my weight.

    "I was already hard on the left-hand side of the track and I just looked to make sure I'm not in anyone's way and Vinales was there. There's a lot of track there. 

    "I understand the racing line and the track sort of pulls you that way, but there's not much I could do. I went to apologise because I know it's bad, but there's nothing I can do."

     

    PROVISIONAL GRID

    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) – 1:31.504
    2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) + 0.116
    3. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) + 0.204
    4. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.292
    5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) + 0.364
    6. Jack Miller (Ducati) + 0.620
    7. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.671
    8. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) + 0.768
    9. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +0.803
    10. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +0.863

  • Deluge of wickets turn third Test in England's favour as New Zealand wilt after rain delay Deluge of wickets turn third Test in England's favour as New Zealand wilt after rain delay

    Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell ended day three at Headingley tasked with producing another defiant partnership to put New Zealand in a winning position after England seemingly tilted the balance of a fascinating third Test slightly in their favour.

    Seeking a 3-0 whitewash with victory at Headingley, England resumed play on the third day hopeful Jonny Bairstow and Jamie Overton would steer them into a first-innings lead.

    Bairstow added to his overnight 130 to go past 150 in expedient fashion and, though Overton (97) was denied a Test century on debut, England claimed a lead of 31 runs as they were bowled out for 360.

    Tom Latham (76) produced his best batting effort of a difficult series, but New Zealand slumped from 152-2 to 168-5 after a rain break in the evening session to leave Mitchell and Blundell nursing a lead of 137 when rain stopped play.

    Bairstow was fluent once more after the morning session got going, his 150 the second-fastest in England's Test history as it came in 144 balls.

    Overton was evidently more nervous and his hopes of a hundred went when he chased an off-stump delivery from Trent Boult and edged to first slip.

    Stuart Broad (42) hit a barrage of boundaries to help England beyond 350 before he and Bairstow went in successive balls, Jack Leach the last man to depart after a pair of fours.

    Despite Will Young's early exit to Matthew Potts (2-20), New Zealand progressed serenely until the first ball after tea, when Overton had Latham caught behind.

    A brief rain delay undid New Zealand further. Ollie Pope claimed a brilliant catch at short leg as Devon Conway fell to Joe Root and Potts drew an edge to remove captain Kane Williamson (48), with Ben Stokes' faith in Leach rewarded by the spinner dismissing Henry Nicholls (7) caught and bowled and giving Mitchell and Blundell a recovery mission.
     

    Quick work for Bairstow

    Bairstow, who finished with 162 from 157 balls, was the star of the show with the bat at his home ground in England's first innings.

    He did most of the damage on day two but only Stokes, who did so in 135 balls against South Africa in 2016, can claim to have reached a Test 150 faster than Bairstow, who donned the wicket-keeping gloves for New Zealand's second innings due to a back problem for Ben Foakes.

    Can New Zealand's dream team do it again?

    Mitchell and Blundell combined for a stand of 195 in the first Test and 236 in the second. They will likely need to produce another fine partnership to help New Zealand post an imposing target for England.

    Potts, who has now dismissed Williamson in three of the Black Caps skipper's four innings this series, looks in the kind of form to thwart them.

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