Atlético-MG has not lost for 12 matches and has opened a seven-point lead at the top of the Brasileirão, thanks mainly to three factors: the defensive solidity, the abnormal performance as a visitor and the potential of Alex Stival at half-time. All essential items for the capital victory over Fortaleza this Sunday, by 2-0.
The numbers of the sequence of 12 unbeaten games, under these three perspectives, are impressive. Galo won 5 of 7 away games. The defense conceded only six goals, and was not leaked six times. And in a specific cutout of the final stages, he scored 18 goals, and suffered only 1.
Alonso celebrates first goal for Atlético-MG — Photo: Pedro Souza / Atlético
The fans know it wasn’t just this Sunday. Of the 13 victories of Galo in the Brasileirão, 8 were conquered thanks to the improvement in performance after the half-time talk.
But after all, what can you change in 15 minutes of conversation in the locker room, between one time and another, in a football match?
“It’s not about motivating, we read the game. It analyzes what went right, what didn’t. Where you have to adjust something defensively, where you can exploit offensively” (Cuca).
Against Fortaleza, the change in posture from one time to another was decisive. Not that Galo played poorly in the first stage, as Cuca made a point of emphasizing at the press conference. But it was after the break that the team came back doing what they do best, and it was fatal.
Cuca; Fortaleza x Atlético-MG — Photo: Pedro Souza / Atlético
Unlike its predecessor in office, Atletico Alex Stival is not a team that usually builds good chances from a long exchange of passes in the offensive field. Instead, it is vertical, swift, fatal.
The first goal, just 3 minutes into the second half, is a great example of this feature. From the free kick by Nathan Silva in the defense field to the ball in the net, 15 seconds passed.
The defender handed it to Mariano, who found Nacho well positioned between the Fortaleza lines. The midfielder served Hulk, who ran into two defenders and found Vargas alone in the middle of the area. The Chilean missed his domination and lost his chance of submission, but, in solidarity, he served Zaracho for the goal.
Zaracho, Atlético-MG — Photo: Kely Pereira/AGIF
“That’s the kind of game where whoever comes out ahead has a huge chance of winning. (Cuca)
Ahead of the scoreboard, the solidity of Brasileirão’s best defense comes into vogue. In the last 12 games, Atlético have taken the lead seven times. All won. And against Fortaleza, the performance of the defensive system was, once again, gigantic.
No wonder that, in 14 games with the alvinegra shirt, Nathan Silva has not left the field defeated once. Requested by Atlético-GO in the middle of the year, the 24-year-old defender is proving to be one of the team’s greatest revelations of the season. Safe in aerial balls, intelligent in tackling, fast in disputes with attackers.
Atlético-MG players celebrate Alonso’s goal against Fortaleza — Photo: Kely Pereira/AGIF
But against Fortaleza, the trophy for best on the field didn’t go to him because Junior Alonso was even better. The Paraguayan sheriff took the field for the qualifiers on Thursday night, did just one training session in Belo Horizonte (Saturday) and was tireless this Sunday. Giant.
In addition to the defensive class, Alonso went to the attack to score the goal that determined Atlético’s 13th victory in the Brasileirão. Handbook movement and foundation in the right butt after Nacho’s corner. 2-0 rooster, more leader than ever.
With a campaign of seven wins, two draws and only two defeats in 11 games away from Belo Horizonte, Atlético are the best team away from home in the Brazilian Championship. A factor that should cheer (a lot) the fan. Since 2003, at the beginning of the points run era, the best visitor has not only won the cup 4 times.
Galo starts the second round off on the right foot, to show that he can do differently from 2012 and continue his quest for the so dreamed trophy until the end of the competition. And if nine years ago the performance away from Belo Horizonte was decisive for the loss of the title, this time it is precisely this factor that can make the story different.
Fortaleza x Atlético-MG — Photo: Pedro Souza / Atlético
The road is still long, the road is troubled and, behind, come thirsty people (Flemish). But Rooster remains firm, and with maturity, at the head of the pack.
Defensive strength, away-from-home performance and half-time magic: if these factors remain decisive until December, the Atletican has what it takes to finally throw out a scream stuck half a century ago in his throat.