ATM XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Godín, Savic, Lucas, Gabi, Thomas, Saúl, Correa, Gameiro Griezmann. Subs: Gaitan for Gameiro (61’); Giménez for Gabi (68’); Filipe Luís for Correa (86’).
CEL XI: Alvarez; Mallo, Cabral, Gomez, Jonny; Wass, Lobotka, Hernández; Aspas, Sisto, Gomez. Subs: Guidetti for Wass (71’); Emre Mor for Cabral (71’).
On the back of yet more Champions League disappointment, Atlético Madrid traveled to Balaídos in Vigo hoping to take three points and break a streak of draws. Diego Simeone again rang the changes for Atlético, bringing back Kévin Gameiro to partner Antoine Griezmann. He also used Ángel Correa to play a wider role, sharing time on the left and right to give Atleti a different attacking option.
Some of the same problems that have plagued Atlético in recent weeks resurfaced early in this match, with little attacking output early on. However, on 27 minutes Antoine Griezmann had a shot from outside the box saved, and Atleti took the lead from the ensuing corner. The ball fell to Gameiro after a fortunate deflection, and the Frenchman turned and volleyed the ball over his shoulder into the back of the net from just a couple yards out.
Following the goal, Atleti reverted to their comfortable mode of defending the lead but trying to create opportunities on the counter attack. There were quite a few fouls in the period after Gameiro’s goal, mostly from Atleti, who as usual toed the line with the referee Munuera. Celta Vigo had more shots, but most were from outside the area and lacked the power to beat a keeper of Jan Oblak’s quality.
At halftime the 1-0 looked better than Atlético had been, as they mostly sat back in the first half. The second half started much the same, with Celta pushing for the equalizer, and Atleti waiting for a counterattacking opportunity. At the hour mark, Simeone changed the team around, first bringing on Nico Gaitán for Kevin Gameiro. Then, a few minutes later he brought on Jose Giménez for Gabi, who had been booked and nearly gave away a penalty for handball.
Moments after Celta made a double substitution, Atlético nearly doubled their lead with Griezmann’s flashing a header wide from a good Saúl cross. Celta continued their assault on Oblak’s goal as the game reached its conclusion; Maxi Gómez and John Guidetti came closest to claiming the equalizer. The mattress makers’ ineffective passing complicated their attempts to sew up the result with comfort and gave Celta more opportunities.
Five minutes from time, Simeone made his final change, bringing on Filipe Luís for Correa. It was a bit of a weird one, but clearly one which showed El Cholo’s satisfaction at the 1-0 edge. Ultimately, the match ended with that very same scoreline.
It is almost repetitive at this point to say that Jan Oblak kept Atlético in the game, but once again the Slovene came up with a huge display, commanding his back line when they made errors. The result is a vital one despite the unconvincing performance. Gameiro’s goal should be good for his confidence and Atleti remain one of three unbeaten sides in LaLiga. Hopefully, this result is a building block and gets the side clicking again; this outing won’t be good enough against several teams, and Celta would have equalized with a touch more luck.