Atletico squanders chance vs. Valencia

Atletico Madrid squandered a chance to reclaim second place in the Spanish league when it was held to a 1-1 home draw by Valencia on Sunday.

Despite missing several first-choice players to injury, Valencia dominated the first half at Vicente Calderon Stadium, especially exposing the hosts on the flanks.

Atletico needed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to bail out its frazzled defense, even after Radamel Falcao had leveled the score just seconds after Jonas had scored for Valencia.

After winning its first 13 home games in the league, Atletico is now winless in two straight matches to sit one point behind Real Madrid. Barcelona is cruising to the league title with a 13-point advantage and nine rounds to go.

”It was a complicated game, but we have to win at home,” said Courtois. ”We want to finish in the Champions League spots but we also want to end up in second place. Barcelona is too far away, but second place is close. Madrid has the Champions League, so it will tire more. If we win our games it’s possible.”

Jonas put Valencia ahead in the fifth minute when defender Miranda allowed him to receive Joao Pereira’s pass in the area, take his time to turn and drive the ball under Courtois.

Falcao hit right back with his 22nd league goal this season by catching Andres Guardado trying too late to spring the offside trap and acrobatically volleying in Arda Turan’s cross at the far post.

Atletico improved after halftime and shifted the action to Valencia’s area, but failed to create a clear chance.

”The first half was ours, but we had little to show for it,” said Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde. ”We controlled the midfield yet lacked punch in the final few meters.”

Valencia remained in sixth place, two points behind fourth-place Real Sociedad, which drew 2-2 at Espanyol.