Thomas Partey’s dramatic stoppage time curler gave Atlético Madrid three points on Saturday, as the 24-year-old’s heroics saved los colchoneros on an otherwise turgid day in Galicia.
In the 91st minute, Thomas provided the game’s clearest highlight with a sensational strike from a well-worked free kick routine. Atlético were poor otherwise, but were able to leave it late thanks to an even less-threatening Deportivo La Coruña side.
Diego Simeone was not expected to make wholesale changes from the team that drew against Qarabag in midweek. Koke and Yannick Carrasco continued their recoveries from injury, and Filipe Luís joined them due to a hamstring issue. Lucas Hernández took Filipe’s place, and Augusto Fernández made his first league start since September 2016 (which was also against Deportivo). Kévin Gameiro dropped back to the bench, which allowed Ángel Correa to partner Antoine Griezmann up top.
The first half proceeded in much the same way other Atlético performances this season have started. Atleti were slow, unimaginative and sloppy, losing possession 14 times and failing to record a shot on target. Deportivo weren’t much better, although Cristóbal Parralo’s men were stronger in midfield and could have gone ahead through Lucas Pérez toward the end of the first half — the Spanish striker nearly capitalized on Jan Oblak losing his footing inside his own 18-yard box, but quick defending eliminated that opportunity. But for the seventh time in 11 league games, Atleti entered halftime locked in a goalless stalemate.
Griezmann registered the first shot on target 23 seconds after the restart, but it was driven right at Costel Pantilimon. That would be the Frenchman’s only shot of the day, as new strike partner Nico Gaitán (???) soon rivaled him for touches. Gameiro entered on the hour and almost immediately had a goal disallowed for offside. Atlético struggled to do much of anything for the next half hour other than scramble the ball away from Jan Oblak — and with the game still goalless, Simeone lifted the out-of-form Griezmann for José Giménez, ostensibly seeking the draw.
But Thomas would have none of that.
The Ghanaian stepped up with Gabi to take a free kick following a Sidnei foul on Lucas. The captain took it and slid the ball to Thomas, who curled in from 25 yards past a befuddled Pantilimon to hand Atlético an unlikely win.
Without Carrasco, Koke and Filipe — three of Simeone’s most important players — it was always likely Atleti would struggle. And they did, no thanks to a system that severely hampered creativity and imaginative attacking. But an undeserved win still counts as a win, and Atleti are unbeaten through 11 weeks for the first time since 1995/96.
Deportivo: Pantilimon; Juanfran Moreno, Schär, Sidnei, Luisinho (Navarro, 82’); Borges (Mosquera, 75’), Guilherme; Cartabia, Bakkali (Andone, 75’), Valverde; Lucas Pérez.
Atlético: Oblak; Juanfran Torres, Savić, Godín, Lucas Hernández; Thomas, Saúl, Gabi, Augusto (Gameiro, 60’); Griezmann (Giménez, 80’), Correa (Gaitán, 46’).