Atletico Madrid stunned by Almeria
Last Updated: 08/02/14 11:10pm
Verza celebrates his opener for Almeria
The Primera Division title race took another twist on Saturday as Atletico Madrid suffered a shock defeat away to struggling Almeria.
Jose Antonio Verza curled in a stunning goal - surely meant as a cross - 10 minutes from time after Almeria's stubborn defensive display had driven Atletico to distraction on a night of pure frustration.
And things got worse five minutes later when goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia - perhaps at fault for the opener - blundered in a big way, fluffing a back-pass and then fouling Jonathan Zongo to concede a penalty, converted by Verza, and seeing red.
The decision seemed harsh, particularly the red card, but Almeria were not complaining.
Atletico ended the night in second place in the overall standings - if only on goal difference following a big win for Real Madrid - but victory for Barcelona at Sevilla on Sunday would send Gerardo Martino's men back to the top of the league.
It was a stunning end to a night when Atletico had been expected to bounce back from their 3-0 Copa del Rey semi-final loss to Real Madrid.
But they struggled for inspiration in a scrappy first half, settling for long shots which did not trouble Esteban Suarez in the Almeria goal as they failed to get any meaningful effort on target.
As Atletico's frustrations became apparent, Almeria grew in confidence and Alex Vidal fired a warning shot in the 76th minute when a quick counter-attack ended with him striking a shot which hit both posts before bouncing clear.
That brought the crowd to life and moments later, they were celebrating a stunning opening goal from Verza who took a short corner and then curled the ball into the top corner with Aranzubia - starting in place of Thibaut Courtois - wrong-footed.
If that was harsh on the goalkeeper, he could have no excuses about the second and may have been grateful to escape to the dressing room after receiving his marching orders.
A routine back pass became a full-blown crisis when he took a poor first touch and then, as Zongo looked to pick his pocket, he tussled with the forward and both went to ground.
With all three substitutes used, midfielder Gabi pulled on the goalkeeper's jersey, but he could do nothing as Vidal lashed his penalty high into the right-hand corner of the net, sealing a win which takes them up to 13th, five points clear of the drop zone.
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