Atletico Madrid got their final season at the Vicente Calderon underway on Sunday night with a frustrating 1-1 draw with Alaves. Not until the 92nd minute did Atletico break down the newly-promoted sides defence when Fernando Torres was pulled down inside the box only for Kevin Gameiro to slot the penalty home. Moments later, however, Manu Garcia rifled home Alaves’ only shot on target on the night to earn his side a point deep into injury-time.
The game started as one might expect given the status of both sides and Atletico settled into an attacking stance from the earliest stages with Alaves proving little or no interest in getting the ball into their opponents half.
Defend and frustrate was clearly Mauricio Pellegrino's modus operandi for the night and they did it well for the opening half. The best chance of that opening 45 for the home side came after 35 minutes when Juanfran found Koke on the right hand side before the Spanish midfielder fired across Alaves' goalmouth; the ball was met by new signing Kevin Gameiro but he wasn't able to keep the cushioned finished down and it blazed over the bar.
Just before the half-time whistle, Yannick Carrasco found himself in space just outside Alaves' penalty area and the Belgian drove a low, hard shot that clipped the wrong side of the upright from an Atletico perspective and skidded to safety.
Referee Ignacio Iglesias blew for half-time with the two sides dead even and while Alaves were made to suffer for much of the opening exchanges, they were relatively comfortable in their return to La Liga.
Fernando Torres replaced Tiago Mendes at half-time in an attacking substitution that Cholo obviously felt was necessary in order to break down the thus-far resolute and stubborn Alaves.
It was much of the same to start the second half. Yannick Carrasco came close, as did Saul Niguez with a header from a shot from Carrasco. Diego Godin also saw a header saved and flicked over the bar by Pacheco as Atletico piled on the pressure with no end result.
Nico Gaitan entered the fray after an hour and showed some positive signs on the right hand side, before switching to the left, but given how deep Alaves were sitting, it was going to take an inch perfect pass or a moment of inspiration to break them down.
Another scare after 72 minutes for the visitors when Fernando Torres broke free and sliced beyond Fernando Pacheco but his shot hit the upright and wide. Alaves remained in the fight.
Entering the last 15, Atletico were in the uncomfortable territory of “can they steal all three points with a late goal?” that they found themselves in too often last year.
Having defended so well for so long, Alaves were undone with a ball over the top that Torres chested down before being pulled to the ground by Victor Laguardia. The referee pointed to the spot and Kevin Gameiro sent Pacheco the wrong way.
Game over, or so it seemed.
Alaves kept plugging away with the little time they had left and got their reward when Manu Garcia's hopeful shot from distance made it's way through Atletico's defence and hit the back of Jan Oblak's net. 1-1 and Atletico were reeling.
With Barcelona and Real Madrid winning on the opening weekend, Atletico find themselves playing chasing against their rivals from a very early stage.