Liga - Bore draw on Simeone's Atletico return
Diego Simeone's return to Atletico Madrid ended in a goalless draw at Malaga in La Liga, although the result will have pleased the visiting boss as it ended a run of four defeats.
A cagey encounter on the south coast of Spain was marked by a lack of chances and stern defending from Atletico, who doubled their away tally in La Liga by playing in the image of Simeone, a former combative midfielder for the capital club.
The result means Malaga move to sixth for now, with Atletico 10th, although both will slide if teams around them win on Sunday.
That the game was scrappy and unspectacular will have pleased former Argentina skipper Simeone, who vowed to mould the team in his war-like image after taking over following a run of four straight domestic defeats.
It was not pleasing on the eye though as neither side created a passing tempo to befit their respective talents.
Malaga initially created more clear-cut chances, with Thibault Courtois forced into excellent saves from Diego Buonanotte and Salomon Rondon, the latter a beauty from the Colombian’s bullet header.
Jeremy Toulalan also went close with a header for the hosts but the closest anyone came to a goal in the first half was Atletico’s Diego, whose rising drive took a wicked deflection off Weligton to wrong-foot Willy Cabellero and cannon off the bar.
The second half started a touch more promisingly, with Radamel Falcao seeing a goal chalked off as he and Alvaro Dominguez flew aggressively into keeper Caballero at a corner.
But it soon drifted back into a turgid affair, with some tasty challenges and subsequent bookings the most interesting interludes as the hour mark approached.
Indeed, there was little of note until Diego Godin’s free header from a corner was blocked on the line by Santi Cazorla, who prevented a sure goal by keeping his position on the near post.
Malaga brought Ruud van Nistelrooy on – Rondon had been isolated up front and his midfielders shy of supporting him – and the veteran Dutchman had a half-chance when his scuffed header from Ignacio Monreal’s cross flew well wide.
There were late chances for both sides as Atletico’s Diego curled a shot wide, while Malaga’s Duda was denied a tap-in by Luis Perea’s fine interception.