Goalkeeper and amateur miracle worker Jan Oblak made three crucial saves to salvage a point for Atlético Madrid at Butarque on Saturday night.
Hosts Leganés dealt comfortably with a new-look Atlético attack and had chances to win themselves, but had to settle for the goalless draw after Oblak stopped substitute Nabil El Zhar on three separate occasions in the second half.
Diego Simeone made several unusual decisions throughout this Madrid derby, beginning with the initial formation. As Filipe Luís and Lucas Hernández were out with hamstring injuries, Simeone chose to start in a 3-5-2, with José Giménez, Diego Godín and Stefan Savić all playing. Luciano Vietto got another start up top after missing out on the midweek festivities against Chelsea, as Ángel Correa dropped into a midfield that included Thomas and Gabi — who also did not play Wednesday.
Atlético had a chance in the very first minute from a corner, when the ball slid off Vietto’s knee and onto Giménez’s foot from point-blank range. The Uruguayan couldn’t guide the ball over, but little did we know that would end up being Atleti’s finest opportunity.
Simeone soon shifted to the familiar 4-4-2, with Giménez and Saúl Ñíguez as the makeshift full backs. Unsurprisingly, los rojiblancos failed to create chances against a compact, organized Leganés side, with the best opportunity coming from a Saúl volley late in the first half.
Strange substitutions marked the second half. Simeone removed the dangerous Correa over the struggling Vietto, eventually replacing the latter with a Fernando Torres. But the most stunning move was made with 25 minutes to go, when El Cholo subbed off Antoine Griezmann for natural full back Šime Vrsaljko (who could and maybe should have started the game, seeing as he is fit).
This was after Oblak had stymied El Zhar with two athletic saves, the latter a right-footed bullet earmarked for the top right corner. On 89 minutes, a Nordin Amrabat-led counterattack culminated in Oblak parrying away through traffic a left-footed drive from the Moroccan.
Atlético currently are third and one of just three unbeaten teams left in LaLiga, but could fall to fifth after this uninspiring display — Real Betis (fifth as it stands) and Valencia (fourth) will leapfrog Atleti with wins Sunday.
Leganés: Cuellár; Zaldua, Dos Santos, Siovas, Raúl; Rubén Pérez; Brasanac (El Zhar, 46’), Gabriel (Gumbau, 74’), Eraso, Szymanowski; Beauvue (Amrabat, 81’).
Atlético: Oblak; Giménez, Savić, Godín, Saúl; Correa (Carrasco, 53’), Thomas, Gabi, Koke; Griezmann (Vrsaljko, 66’), Vietto (Torres, 61’).