Atlético Madrid arrived in Vila-real on Saturday trying to secure its third win in seven days. It was always going to be a tough game; after all, visits to El Madrigal are usually interesting for Atleti. In this fixture last season, Fernando Torres capitalized on an Eric Bailly error to break the ice 15 minutes from time. That goal and the subsequent three points turned out to be huge in the hunt for third place.
This time, however, Marcelino's Yellow Submarine sunk Atleti with relentless pressing and an early goal from...who else, eternal loanee Léo Baptistão. The Brazilian's strike 14 minutes into the match, set up by former Spurs star Roberto Soldado, would be all that was needed to send Villarreal - relegated in 2012 - top of La Liga.
Call it...a baptism by Baptistão.
On to the ratings (stats per WhoScored):
Jan Oblak, GK: 6
The Slovenian shot-stopper didn't have a whole lot to do after intermission. He was let down a bit by his defense on the game's only goal, nothing to worry about otherwise.
Jesús Gámez, RB: 5
In hindsight, Tuesday was probably the day to rest Juanfran and get Gámez into the team. Not Saturday. Gámez was charged with slowing down the dangerous Samu Castillejo-Jaume Costa tandem while picking up where Juanfran always leaves off in attack. His defending was fine, but he came up short in attack; a heavy concentration of his touches were near the halfway line and Filipe was left to shoulder the burden on the wings.
José Maria Giménez, CB: 5
A poor effort to take out Baptistão just prior to his goal. Otherwise, Joséma had no real impact as Atlético bossed possession in the second half. A rare mistake clouded this outing for the younger half of Atleti's Uruguayan center-back pairing.
Diego Godín, CB: 7
Godín was caught out of position during the frantic chain of events that led to the goal, but that was partially due to the ill-advised tackle by Giménez. Otherwise the former Villarreal man was his dependable, focused self. He was a beast in the air and claimed a game-high seven aerial duels. Took the captain's band at halftime.
Filipe Luís, LB: 6
Filipe led all players with 89 touches as the attacking burden fell to him on the left side. He put in a solid day at the office in that department, although he misplaced a few key passes near the Villarreal box. Will look forward to Juanfran's return midweek.
Óliver Torres, RM: 4
You know, maybe it's time to tighten Óliver's reins a bit. Yes, he's shown glimpses of his quality and his great potential. But think about his whirlwind year and a half: loaned to Villarreal (just back in La Liga at the time), played great at Champions League quarterfinalist Porto, now wearing the #10 at Atlético and starting against Barcelona and away at Villarreal. The 20-year-old played 20 more minutes than Gabi and managed only two more touches. Óliver needs to get himself right from the bench; remember, he was great in that role against Eibar.
Tiago, CM: 5
An uncharacteristically "meh" performance from Tiago. The Portuguese's normally pinpoint long balls were off the mark and he was surprisingly clumsy in defense. Even the steadiest players had rough days.
Gabi, CM: 4
Gabi's 200th game in red and white was one he'd probably rather forget. The captain was yanked at halftime after failing to settle in. He did his running but put up goose eggs in tackles and interceptions. Counterpart Bruno was far superior.
Saúl Ñíguez, LM: 6
After a cracking performance midweek against Getafe, Saúl was shifted to the left of midfield, and he responded with a solid performance considering he isn't a winger. The 20-year-old linked up fairly well with Filipe and did his best to provide cover for the Brazilian. But again, he is not a winger and remains best utilized in the center. Despite that, he threw his hat into the ring for a third consecutive start if Koke can't go against Benfica.
Jackson Martínez, FW: 3
Oy. The big Colombian again looked out of sorts in this one, struggling to establish reliable link-up play with Griezmann or anyone else. He was pulled at halftime for the second time in this young season and the third time in six games. He clearly is still adjusting to Atlético's style after his late-July arrival.
Antoine Griezmann, FW: 5
Griezmann was well-controlled by Bailly for swathes of Saturday's game and didn't have many chances to break free. His only glimpse of goal came after he pounced on an error by Victor Ruiz just before halftime, and his attempt was well-saved by PSG loanee Alphonse Areola. Still, Grizi tracked back, worked hard and stationed himself just outside the box. Not a ~bad~ performance, but if he's going to be the talisman, he's got to do better.
Fernando Torres, FW: 5
El Niño could not replicate his standout performance off the bench from last Saturday. The wait for his 100th goal in red and white continues.
Luciano Vietto, FW: 4
Ineffectual again. The young Argentine still needs time to acclimate to Simeone's methods and to his new teammates. It has been said that he looks a lot like Griezmann did at this time last year. That's not too far off the mark.
Ángel Correa, FW: 6
This young Argentine continues to impress off the bench. Had the game's best chance in the dying minutes, but it was parried away by Areola. Does a spot in the XI beckon? We shall see.