Antoine Griezmann rescued Atlético Madrid from a potentially damaging defeat in Bilbao, as his stunning strike 10 minutes from time secured a 2-2 draw against Athletic Club in an intense Sunday afternoon fixture.
Koke opened the scoring inside three minutes for Atlético before Iñigo Lekue registered his first goal of the league season to level the score three minutes before halftime. Óscar De Marcos headed Athletic into the lead just before the hour, setting the stage for Griezmann’s dramatic equalizer as the game neared an end.
Diego Simeone chose to re-insert Gabi into the XI, along with Diego Godín and Šime Vrsaljko at the back and Kévin Gameiro up front. Atlético got off to a great start and scored its earliest goal of the 2016-17 league season to this point when Koke took a pass from Filipe Luís and delivered a great cross intended for Griezmann that ended up going in. The goal, Koke’s second of the season, came just after two minutes had been played and marked the second consecutive league game in which Atleti scored inside 10 minutes.
However, Athletic soon worked its way into the game, bossing possession and utilizing the pace of Iker Muniain and Iñaki Williams to gain a foothold. The latter would provide the assist on the equalizer just before half. He picked out Lekue on the left-hand side before the 23-year-old - a full back by trade - scored a belter that Miguel Ángel Moyá had no chance to stop.
The second half began with a more energized and urgent Atlético, but soon gave way to one that forgot basic defending. A very casual buildup concluded with Raúl García crossing for De Marcos, and the right back made no mistake with his header to hand Athletic a 2-1 lead in the 56th minute. Godín and Filipe, normally so solid in transition, got lost in the buildup, and los leones looked very much like gaining ground in the race for fourth.
Simeone hauled off Gabi, Gameiro and Yannick Carrasco in the 10 minutes following the goal and introduced Fernando Torres, Ángel Correa and Nico Gaitán. These attacking changes brought back memories of November’s disastrous Madrid Derby - which saw all hell break loose after Gabi was substituted - but they proved to be decisive on Sunday. Torres was full of energy and running, and Correa was a live wire, very dangerous with the ball at his feet and tracking back when needed (he made a potentially game-saving tackle with about five minutes remaining).
Los colchoneros worked themselves back into the game but did not seem terribly close to scoring (bar a dreadful offside decision with around 20 minutes to go that canceled out an outrageous Griezmann lob). That is, until the 80th minute. Griezmann took a quick pass from Torres, looked around, dribbled for a few seconds, then unleashed a rocket of a shot with little to no spin from about 28 yards. The ball bounced off Gorka Iraizoz’ post and in to level the scores again - and send Simeone into rapture.
Griezmann’s goal marked his sixth in five games against Athletic since he joined Atlético, and he now has five goals in his last six between LaLiga and the Copa del Rey. The draw ensured Atlético would continue its unbeaten run at the new San Mamés (13 points from five there). Despite just two points from a possible 18 against the top seven to this point, Atleti will stay in fourth if Real Sociedad do not beat Celta Vigo.