Valencia 1-1 Atletico Madrid: 5 Talking Points

Opening days blues for Atletico Madrid, who were held by Valencia in the opening game
Opening days blues for Atletico Madrid, who were held by Valencia in the opening game

Atletico Madrid's new league campaign got off to a rocky start after being held to a 1-1 draw by Valencia at the Mestalla. With both title rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid comfortably clinching all three points on the opening day, Los Rojiblancos were dealt an early blow, though an opening day fixture at one of the toughest places in La Liga was always going to be daunting.

Yet, Angel Correa put the visitors in the driving seat with a neat finish just before the half-hour mark after a spell of amazing passes. Valencia, who were only restricted to long shots for much of the opening half, levelled the matters soon after the break when Diego Godin misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing Rodrigo to latch on to the cross.

Both sides then pushed for a winner but cancelled each other out in an entertaining duel. Let's discuss the major talking points:

#1 Atletico and Valencia trade blows in a show of might

It was end-to-end stuff as the clash lived up to its billing
It was end-to-end stuff as the clash lived up to its billing

Both teams have made some shrewd business in the transfer market this summer in a combined outlay of almost €165 million to bolster their squads. And the fierce intensity with which the sides traded haymakers on the night was a testament to the same.

Atletico were the better side during the opening exchanges, patiently building up the pressure with sweet passing game and opening up Valencia. There were numerous opportunities for the visitors after the opener to extend the advantage, while Los Che tested at the opposite end with long-range scorchers that narrowly sailed over the bar each time.

It was a sign of things to come, and the home side's persistence paid off when Godin's miscalculation allowed Rodrigo to send Griezmann's cross home for the equaliser. Atletico immediately scrapped their counter-attacking ploy and started to push bodies forward in search of the winner. At that time, Valencia too were guilty of squandering some good opportunities to seal the tie as the visitors' hell-for-leather approach left gaps behind.

Despite best efforts at either ends, it ended all square and quiet honestly, it was a fair result to both sides, who demonstrated their might and can look forward to a positive league campaign again.

#2 Rodrigo Moreno's ascent to continue this season

Rodrigo was at the peak of his powers
Rodrigo was at the peak of his powers

The Spanish forward has patiently waited for his time at Valencia and was rewarded for his perseverance last term when he struck 16 times in 37 appearances to become one of the biggest surprises of the season. He now looks ready to replicate the feat, or may even go one better on current evidence.

Rodrigo was the biggest source of threat emanating from Valencia, constantly testing the visitors with his intelligent movements and fearsome long-rangers. Though all those were pretty half-decent chances he dispatched, he was still a livewire upfront.

So it wasn't surprising to see him score eventually, skillfully chesting down the ball before lashing a shot straight into the net for his first of many goals to come this season.

The 27-year old striker oozed confidence throughout. He tried to feed on the scraps of services provided and perhaps against other defences, could've easily scored more than once, such was his efficiency today.

He is no doubt going to be a big factor in Valencia's quest for another top 4 finish and in the Champions League this term, but it might also reignite the interest that Real Madrid showed this summer, and come back for him soon.

#3 Angel Correa continues his fine start to the season

Correa was excellent in the first 45
Correa was excellent in the first 45'

None of the goalscorers in the thumping 4-2 UEFA Supercup victory over neighbors Real Madrid were named Angel Correa, but the player's introduction did change the complexion of the game and turned the tides in Atletico's favour. Much of the fluidity in their attack was down to him and today again, was central to a dominant first-half.

He linked up brilliantly with the two strikers and pushed bodies with his forward passes. But his best bit of the opening half came when a neat one-two with Griezmann saw him score the opener.

The Frenchman evaded his marker on the edge of the area on the right before laying for Correa, who caught the Valencian defence napping to beat the offside trap and open Atletico's account for the second season running.

He did misplace a few passes in the second half, but the team as a whole succumbed to the scorching heat that eventually slowed things down towards the end. Correa may have ended the night with a whimper, but his brilliant first-half helped secure a vital point for his side and will earn many more of them, in days to come.

Keep an eye on him, this might his year to shine through.

#4 Atletico's midfield is menacing, but defensively deficient

Atletico's midfield left acres of space at the back
Atletico's midfield left acres of space at the back

It sounds really strange when you hear Atletico and defensive shortcomings in the same breath. But the attack-minded midfield did create as many problems at the back just as the threat it imbued while going forward.

Koke and Saul were the central midfielders flanked by Thomas Lemar and Angel Correa. Now that's a really formidable attacking unit right there, but Valencia exposed it completely on the counter as it left too many spaces.

Whilst the likes of Lemar and Correa provided width down the flanks, Koke and Saul too regularly tried to get into the thick of things by pushing forward, so there was nobody to cover for the backline and that left them exposed. Valencia were helped in their cause due to this, mustering 13 shots in all.

The Rojiblancos can address the issue by deploying Rodrigo, who can be an excellent protective cover for the back four, but it demands a sacrifice - that of a forward. But given the quality that Griezmann and Costa bring upfront, Simeone cannot afford to do that and must come up with a solution before it causes further damage.

#5 Atletico are becoming more entertaining with passing play

The Red-and-Whites are trying a new passing style and it's good
The Red-and-Whites are trying a new passing style and it's good

Atletico Madrid have established a reputation for being one of the meanest sides in Europe. But on the flip side, too much emphasis on defending also garnered a notorious distinction of playing an unexciting brand of football.

All that looks set to change this season with an interesting passing style that's not only quick and easy on the eye, but also fastens the tempo of their game, thereby making it brisk and more entertaining to watch.

We've already been given a glimpse of it in the Supercup clash when the Colchoneros dismantled the Whites with intelligent passes, and it was on shown against Valencia too during the opening stanza when Atletico threatened to run the rings around the hosts.

At one instance, Jan Oblak played Felipe Luis with a throw that the Brazilian then laid off for Lemar. He then played it back, before Luis lifted a cross over for Griezmann as the French forward then passed it aside for Correa to connect with Costa on the right to create a fabulous chance.

Such kind of things are reminiscent of the Barcelona side of the Pep Guardiola days that ran the roughshod over every goddamn defence with the charismatic tiki-taka style passing. Atletico may be trying to take a leaf out of it.

And although it didn't fully come to fruition, it's just the start. They'll get a hang of it sooner or later and in the process, also become fun to watch.

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Edited by Shambhu Ajith
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