Atletico Madrid had the chance to move atop of La Liga on Friday night with a trip to the Riazor on the cards. Diego Simeone started with the same XI in consecutive games for the first time in 47 in La Liga. The Argentine manager was relying on the recent ascendancy of Yannick Ferreira and Jackson Martinez to fire them to the top of the league after ten games. As it turned out, this was very much a game of two halves with either team owning possession for 45 minutes of football.
The game started in tense fashion with the hosts feeling out their opponents, who were unwilling to sit back and play their way into the game. That all changed after ten minutes when it was obvious that Atletico were the stronger team and would be dictating the play. At this point, Depor looked to retreat into their shells with just Lucas Perez playing on the shoulder of the last Atletico defender.
It was quite obvious after the opening 15 minutes that Atleti would attack down either flank, inverting Carrasco and Koke, while Juanfran And Filipe Luis tried to create combinations on either side. It left Atletico less vulnerable to a counter-attack too with Depor showing early signs of slick counter-attacking football. One such moment occured when Lucas Perez broke free in the open field, leaving Diego Godin for dead requiring the younger Uruguayan defender Jose Gimenez to clean up for his older compatriot.
Once Atletico looked after the ball in the attacking third, however, Perez' influence wained. This lead to tweets like this.
Nobody is helping Lucas in attack. He's dropping deep, winning possession & trying to involve others. Seriously poor tonight. No ambition.— Chris (@MoarFootball) October 30, 2015
Pressure Pays Off
All of Atletico's pressure paid off when Carrasco found Tiago, via a Jackson Martinez deflection, at the edge of the penalty area and the classy veteran found the bottom corner of the net on 34 minutes to put Atletico Madrid 1-0 up.
Diego Godin almost made it two when he rose highest to meet a cross but the post was there to deny the Uruguayan. The rebound met Griezmann's shin but Lux collected to deny the Frenchman.
Different Half, Different Story
The hosts took to the field for the second half with a sense of attacking intent and really took the game to their opponents from the start. Atletico were pinned back but it still seemed as though Depor were wary of an Atletico counter-attack, thus never fully expressing themselves in an attacking sense.
They certainly enjoyed the first 15 minutes of the second half and it took Atletico a quarter of an hour to figure out whether they wanted to press Depor or sit back and hit them on the counter. Simeone encouraged them to sit in a medium/high block giving Deportivo la Coruna the chance to open them up. The incisive pass never came, however, and despite Cartabia testing Oblak three times in a short space, Atletico's goal was never under serious threat.
Atletico continued to offer their opponents little and decided it was time to further clamp down on Depor's chances by replacing Jackson Martinez with Saul Niguez after 70 minutes. Atletico looked home and hosed given their strong defensive record in recent times. That was until a dreadful mistake my Gimenez changed the entire complexity of the game.
Lucas Perez stole the ball from Gimenez, who was looking to guide the ball out over his own end line. The former Atletico man skipped inside Oblak and slotted passed a helpless Diego Godin. Atletico had made the defensive change and needed to increase their attacking options when replacing Tiago with Fernando Torres with eight minutes left to play. It was all or nothing for Simeone, who knew his side were on the brink of throwing away three points.
Atletico did alter their tactics and pushed forward but the damage had been done. Depor were confident at the back and offered the visitors few chances as they tried desperately to regain the lead. Simeone and his players will understand this is a chance missed considering the control they exerted on the game in the opening half. Depor were full value for their point and have shown themselves capable of not only remaining in La Liga but pushing for a top half finish.