Eibar XI: Dmitrovic, Capa, Oliveira, Ramis, Jose Angel, Ivan Alejo (Orellana 46’), Garcia, Jordán (Diop 73’), Inui, Enrich, Charles (Kike 64’)
ATM XI: Oblak, Vrsaljko, Godín, Giménez, Lucas, Koke, Saúl, Thomas, Correa (Carrasco 54’), Gameiro (Augusto 69’), Griezmann (Torres 75’)
In recent years Atlético Madrid have had bad luck with the weather when they visit Eibar, and Saturday was no different as the rain came down heavily in the Basque Country. Due to yellow and red card accumulation, Atlético went without usual starters Diego Costa, Stefan Savić and Gabi, and the injured Filipe Luís missed out too. As a result, several players got chances to impress the manager, with José Giménez, Thomas Partey and Kévin Gameiro all getting starts at Ipurua.
It was Ángel Correa who had the best early opportunity go wide and Koke saw an attempt scrape the bar. Without Gabi, Atlético lacked a certain amount of steel in the middle of the park, but Saúl and Thomas proved a dynamic and mobile pair.
In the 27th minute, Koke broke Eibar’s offside trap with a great through ball to Antoine Griezmann, who passed unselfishly to a wide-open Gameiro to tap in. Though Atleti looked a bit more open defensively, going forward they looked far more dangerous. When Atleti were able to break the hosts’ effective offside trap, they often found space.
Eibar, on the other hand, spent most of their possession passing it around on the edge of the area. While nerve-wracking at times, the hosts offered very little penetration for all of their possession and entered the half down a goal with the tempo slowed.
The Basques had a few chances at the start of the second half, but were not able to capitalize on set piece opportunities. Diego Simeone replaced Correa with Yannick Carrasco to ease the pressure, but Eibar’s best chance came on 63 minutes after a header from Sergi Enrich had to be held on the line by Jan Oblak.
Simeone’s choice to bring on Carrasco proved a good one, as his pace allowed Atlético to counter at breakneck speed. Griezmann had a great chance as a result of one of these counters, as he was put through one on one, but Marko Dmitrovic saved his shot. Just a few minutes later, he was withdrawn for Fernando Torres. Torres could have doubled Atleti’s lead with his first touch after Carrasco put in a wicked cross, but El Niño’s poke went just wide.
In the final ten minutes, Jan Oblak had a lot to do, making really difficult saves look easy. Eibar’s attack went through Takashi Inui, who caused all sorts of problems down the right. Lucas had the left hand side well under control, as he shut down former academy teammate Ivi Alejo and his replacement Fabián Orellana.
Thomas Partey had a fantastic game in midfield, especially in the second half, and he was crucial to sewing up the result. He recorded five interceptions, won three aerial duels and made one tackle as he reasserted his importance to Simeone’s side.
Substitute Augusto Fernández nearly gave away a penalty at the very end, but his handball went unseen by Mateu Lahoz. Oblak was required to stop a few dangerous headers, but ultimately Atlético escaped with the narrowest of wins. Despite a very nervy last ten minutes, Atleti looked strong and like they are developing more as a unit in this second half of the season.