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Caro blunder proves costly




Vitolo 81’


After Wednesday’s match against Celta Vigo, there was a buzz around the goalkeeping from the Blanquivioletas as Jordi Masip saved a second-half penalty to earn a point for his side. After Saturday night, this buzz intensified. However, it was not in relation to Masip and it was for all the wrong reasons as Real Valladolid succumbed to a late goal in the Wanda Metropolitano.

In an unexpected move, Masip – the hero of his side’s previous outing – was benched in favour of back-up goalkeeper, José Antonio Caro. The 26-year-old had not played a single minute of top-flight football in his career, but suddenly found himself thrust into the spotlight against a team chasing Champions League qualification. Caro, signed in July 2018 from relegated Sevilla Atlético and immediately loaned out to Albacete for a season, had returned to Real Valladolid in January having spent the first half of this campaign at Ponferradina where he had made 11 appearances. This unenforced switch in goal was just one of a raft of changes made by manager Sergio González, who fielded a line-up which had only two starters from the Celta match. Sergi Guardiola and Míchel retained their places with the latter donning the captain’s armband. There was a first start for Javi Sánchez in defence, fresh from signing a permanent deal in midweek and Antoñito returned to the first 11 for the first time since the defeat by Real Madrid in January to complete a back four which welcomed Kiko Olivas and Raúl Carnero to it. Brazilian midfielder Matheus Fernandes – on-loan from Barcelona before he makes the switch to the Camp Nou from Palemeiras in the summer – made his debut. Waldo and Pablo Hervías flanked Guardiola in attack with both making just their fifth starting appearances this season.

Second-choice goalkeeper José Antonio Caro made his debut, but endured a difficult evening (Image: LaLiga)

Atlético manager, Diego Simeone, also fielded a markedly different line-up from the one who obliterated Osasuna 5-0 at El Sadár in midweek, with seven new faces coming into the starting eleven. Pucela fans would recognise Mario Hermoso in defence for Los Colchoneros as he had spent time at the club between between 2015 and 2016 and, the imposing figure of former striker Diego Costa, loomed large on the Atlético bench.

Despite the unfamiliarity of the Pucela line-up, they started the match well and Waldo launched an early salvo from long range which was acrobatically beaten away by Jan Oblak inside the opening five minutes.

This appeared to rattle the capital side and they soon found their stride, with Álvaro Morata and Portuguese wonderkid João Félix offering immediate responses but failing to hit the target.

Fernandes had arrived from Brazil with much fanfare in the winter transfer window, but Real Valladolid fans had yet to see the prospect in the white and violet stripes until now. Waldo, enjoying a fine first half, won possession deep inside his own half and tore up the left flank before picking a pass with almost surgical accuracy across the field to Fernandes, exploiting a gap between Hermoso and Thomas Partey. The Brazilian gathered the ball and darted into the box but he was unable to find the finish to compliment the slick move and hit a meek effort past Oblak’s right post in what was, undoubtably, Real Valladolid’s best chance of the match.

At the other end, Caro – who had earlier shown signs of nerves during his LaLiga bow by making a meal of gathering a routine high-ball which went unpunished – flapped at a corner unconvincingly and the ball hit off Félix. However, the young forward had been too startled to react and the defence was able to clear the danger.

The teams went into the interval on a level footing, but Caro’s errors were an indicator of fortunes to come in the second half.

Sergio sacrificed Guardiola for young striker Miguel at the start of the second period, along with the largely ineffective Fede San Emeterio making way for Rubén Alcaraz. Míchel attempted a shot form distance but did not trouble Oblak who happily watched it sail over the bar.

Waldo unleashes a shot on Jan Oblak's goal (Image: LaLiga)

Within moments of this, Atlético cranked up the pressure with three assaults on goal in a six-minute span. Félix again threatened the Pucela backline, controlling well to evade Kiko Olivas by switching from his right to his left foot but he half-volleyed an effort over Masip’s crossbar. Marcos Llorente shot straight at Caro, who appeared to have settled into the match, and Thomas Lemar’s shot from distance flew wide.

Just after the hour mark, English right-back Kieran Trippier teed up Partey whose dig was saved initially by Caro but the inexperienced goalkeeper spilled the ball before recovering it at the second time of asking.

Costa, who had replaced Morata, thought he had scored after getting the ball in the net but was felt to have been offside and the goal was chalked off as the hosts continued to test the resolve of their opponents.

With ten minutes to play, Caro pulled off a competent save from Partey and pushed the ball out for a corner, which may have done his confidence the world of good. However, from the resulting set-piece, his good effort was undone when he failed to make any headway inside a congested penalty area and – rather than making any contact to clear the ball – he waved it past. Substitute Vitolo could not believe his luck as the ball made it all the way through to him and he headed it goalward. With Caro all at sea, defender Olivas hurled himself at the ball and managed to head it away from the goal-line but immediately the home players protested that it had crossed the line. With further consultation, this was indeed found to have been the case and Los Rojiblancos heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Vitolo receives the plaudits from his team after scoring the only goal (Image: Atlético Madrid)

Olivas was then caught in possession, giving the ball away cheaply to Costa who bore down on goal but credit must be given to Caro for bravely scraping the ball away as the juggernaut striker advanced on him.

Enes Ünal, also surprisingly omitted from the starting 11, was introduced with seven minutes left to play in regulation time. The industrious Turkish striker was only able to fashion once chance on goal, heading a cross over the bar, and the clock expired to break the hearts of the Pucela players who had held out for so long.

Sergio’s battlers must now host former fan-favourite Jaime Mate and his off-colour Getafe side – who have not registered a win in their last four matches – at the José Zorrilla having been beaten 2-0 by José Bordalás away from home in December.

ATLÉTICO MADRID (4-4-2): Jan Oblak (Capt.); Manuel Sánchez, Mario Hermoso, José Giménez, Kieran Tripper, Thomas Lemar (Yannick Carrasco 57’), Héctor Herrera (Koke 57’), Thomas Partey, Marcos Llorente (Vitolo 74’), João Félix (Ángel Correa 64’), Álvaro Morata (Diego Costa 64’).

Substitutes unused: Antonio Adnán; Santiago Arias, Renan Lodi, Stefan Savić, Antonio Moya, Saúl Ñíguez.

REAL VALLADOLID (4-3-3): José Antonio Caro; Raúl Carnero, Javi Sánchez (Enes Ünal 84’), Kiko Olivas, Antoñito, Fede San Emeterio (Rubén Alcaraz 46’), Míchel (Capt.), Matheus Fernandes (Kike Pérez 74’), Waldo (Óscar Plano 72’), Sergi Guardiola (Miguel 46’).

Substitutes unused: Jordi Masip; Javi Moyano, Nacho, Mohammed Salisu, Hatem Ben Arfa, Toni Villa, Joaquín.

Referee: Pablo González

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