ATM XI: Oblak, Juanfran, Savic, Godín, Felipe Luis, Thomas, Gabi, Saúl, Correa, Gameiro, Griezmann. Subs: Vietto for Gameiro (75’).
VIL XI: Barbosa, Ruiz, Alvaro, Rodri, Costa, Mario, Fornals, Trigueros, Soriano, Bakambu, Bacca.
This Atlético Madrid season under Diego Simeone has been unique because the boss has fully embraced rotation within his side. Many of Atlético’s starters were rested midweek, so there was renewed hope of taking three points in the league after last week’s win at Celta Vigo. Saturday served as Atleti’s fifth home match of the season after los colchoneros played nine of the first 13 away.
Villarreal have been a strong team so far this season and are currently in the mix for a top four spot. With a strong strike force of Cedric Bakambu and Carlos Bacca, the Atlético defense would have to be on their game. Clearly, the plan was to make up for Stefan Savić and Diego Godín’s lack of pace by taking the physical approach against the Yellow Submariners.
Atlético started the match in a much more positive way than in previous matches. Ángel Correa looked very up for this one, making some good runs on the flanks and looking dangerous in the final third.
Atleti had a number of chances in succession, starting with a good cross from Correa which ended in a missed header from Antoine Griezmann. Kévin Gameiro then found himself in a good shooting position just on the edge of the box which he volleyed well, adding to Atleti’s chances.
The game then slowed for a bit; there was a lengthy injury stoppage on 29’ which was not reflected in the first half stoppage time. About ten minutes later, Villarreal had their best chance of the match to that point, with Bacca the danger man. Despite increasingly worrying challenges, Atlético held onto the first half clean sheet.
On 41’ Atleti had a great chance to open the scoring through Saúl when the midfielder received the ball in the box and nearly scored had it not been for a solid save. Godín nearly headed in from a corner just before half time, but he too was stopped by Barbosa.
The second half continued much in the same way as the first, which is a good thing, because unlike some of Atleti’s last few matches this one was exciting and competitive. Both teams were creating chances, and Jan Oblak needed to show his quality on a long range effort that he handled easily.
After threatening the Villarreal goal several times, Correa opened the scoring just after the hour. After a great run and cross by Filipe Luis, Griezmann provided one of the most spectacular balls of Atleti’s season so far to Correa at the back post who finished brilliantly — just the finish the team needed.
Atlético continued to push once they had the momentum from the goal, and Gameiro had a great chance in the box saved by Barbosa. Correa looked like a huge threat every time he had the ball going forward. Not only did the goal give Atleti a lead to defend, it also stopped Simeone from bringing on Luciano Vietto, who had been waiting with his kit on to enter the fray. It took 15 minutes more than it first appeared, but on 75’ Vietto came on for Gameiro, who had a decent match despite some sloppiness.
But just 10 minutes from time, Bacca equalized from a Villarreal corner, as he got ahead of Godín and powered in a header. Oblak may have done better with the chance, but the header came in at a great pace, which made it difficult for him. Atlético did push for the winner, but there was not much time remaining and only two minutes of injury time were assigned. Simeone only made one substitution and the match finished at one apiece, another disappointing result which saw Atleti fail to take chances and struggle to score goals.