On Wednesday night against Borussia Dortmund, Diego Simeone lost the one thing he covets above all else in football. It wasn’t the goals conceded (even though they would have kept him up late into the night and are a symptom of the problem).
What Atlético Madrid lost on Wednesday was control. They conceded a flurry of goals in the last 17 minutes and even though Atlético rarely seek to control the game through the ball, they like to do so with their defensive shape and conceding flurries of goals is not something that sits right with Simeone. And while Real Sociedad might tell you they were competitive in the opening exchanges on Saturday, that’s just what Simeone wants them to think.
Cholo restored Rodri to the lineup and matched him with Koke in the middle against a side who had won their last two away games but failed to win the two before that. Simeone was never going to be interested in getting involved in a shoot-out in an effort to reestablish form after that depressing night in Dortmund.
The game went as expected to start with Rodri controlling matters and Koke acting as the back-up plan when his midfield teammate was unavailable. Between the two they had eight recoveries in the opening 45 minutes as La Real were frustrated all the way back up to San Sebastián.
Antoine Griezmann fired a warning shot after 10 minutes when he almost chipped former teammate Miguel Ángel Moyá, who looked resigned to it going over his head or didn’t realise the immediate danger his net faced. It brushed the post and skidded to safety.
It wasn’t until the 25th minute that Griezmann hassled the visitor’s goal again. A ball in from Ángel Correa on the right fell to him and he thought quick before acrobatically volleying over the bar.
Atlético turned up the pressure as the half wore on and had several corners in a row as it seemed they were on the brink of something. That something came on the stroke of half-time when Diego Godín took up a pass from Correa and slotted home to make it 1-0 with the last kick of the half.
It knocked the stuffing out of Real Sociedad too, because Atlético started the second half in flying fashion and never backed down. The mattress makers wouldn’t have to wait long for their second goal — substitute Filipe Luis took his chance when the ball scuttled his way on the left after some heavy pressure inside Real Sociedad’s box. He took it on his unfavored right foot and curled beyond Moyá who could only hope his fingertips might reach it.
After Atleti had their tails up, Diego Costa found room down the left channel but he couldn’t find his scoring touch as Moyá beat away one chance and Costa couldn’t get a shot away on another occasion.
The game was over once Filipe scored the second though, as the hosts took ownership of the ball and wound up with 61 percent possession. It ended 2-0 and the txuri-urdin failed to register a shot on goal. Order has been restored as Atlético now sit top of LaLiga.
Simeone can sleep soundly on Saturday night and wake up early Sunday in the knowledge that one or both of his two most likely dangers in the league will lose points in the primetime game on Sunday night. The situation, for now, is back under control and that’s how the Argentine likes it.