A wild, seesaw affair between Atlético Madrid and Athletic Club de Bilbao ended in a 3-2 win for the hosts on Saturday night at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Iñaki Williams’ double was cancelled out with goals by midfielders Rodri and Thomas Partey before Diego Godín popped up with a stoppage time header to seal a thrilling comeback win for a shorthanded Atlético.
Here’s how shorthanded Atleti were on Saturday:
There was a change at right back as Santiago Arias took over from Juanfran (who was quite good against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday), and the team’s only fit center backs — Diego Godín and 19-year-old Francisco Montero — started together for the first time. Diego Costa also returned to the XI after two weeks out with a thigh problem, but still the absences were many. None of Koke, José Giménez, Lucas Hernández, Thomas Lemar or Stefan Savić made the squad.
Atlético had all the ball in the first 15 minutes. Simeone’s men could not challenge Iago Herrerín despite the disparity in possession — several crosses originating from Arias’ side looked dangerous but in effect went nowhere. Arias had the first rojiblanco shot on 20 minutes when Griezmann laid off for him near the edge of the box and the Colombian’s shot blazed into side netting.
With Koke and Thomas Lemar out injured, Atlético’s lack of playmaking really became prominent. In contrast to BVB’s approach, Athletic set up in a narrow 4-3-3 and congested play through the middle. Soon enough, both sides decided they didn’t really want the ball, which made for some pretty poor viewing. The teams combined for only three shots in the opening half hour.
But then, out of nothing, Athletic found their opener. Captain Markel Susaeta beat Filipe Luís and played a good cross into an onrushing Mikel San José, whose shot cannoned off the crossbar and was duly tucked over the line by an unmarked and unseen Iñaki. Atlético were behind — the one thing they could not do with so many players out — and had paid the price for some really dire football.
Vitolo entered at halftime as Ángel Correa moved up to accompany Antoine Griezmann, but not much really changed for Atlético. Gelson Martins entered for Montero just before the hour in a very attacking move (Saúl dropped into central defense) — and perhaps not coincidentally, Atleti got their equalizer moments later.
Thomas Partey pulled up from beyond 25 yards against a stagnant defense and hit a bullet into the goal. Herrerín had no chance to stop such a powerful shot, and for a few minutes Atlético had the momentum and hope for a go-ahead goal.
Iñaki dashed said hopes only three minutes later. Iker Muniain released him into space with a great through ball, and the man who had scored his past 13 goals away from home turned on the afterburners to leave Godín in the dust and slot home with ease.
Godín would move up front almost immediately after the Basques retook the lead as Simeone decided to abandon any semblance of shape. Yet in a match that featured more twists and turns than Cholo would like, the mattress makers would find another equalizer 10 minutes from time. Converted center back Thomas swung in a corner that Rodri headed inside the far post for his first Atlético goal. The Wanda Metropolitano roared back to life, with all to play for now in a ridiculously open game.
And there was even more drama as the match entered its three minutes of stoppage time.
Thomas stood over another set piece. The ball came in. First Saúl chopped at it, then Griezmann. Then Godín — the pharaoh, the club legend who could barely run — hit a signature header that went to a review and eventually stood as the match-winner. The captain’s teammates mobbed him as Atlético moved up to second in LaLiga for the time being.
ATM XI: Oblak; Arias, Godín, Montero (Gelson 56’), Filipe Luís; Rodri, Thomas P, Correa (Kalinić 62’), Saúl; Griezmann, Costa (Vitolo 46’).
Goals: Thomas 61’ Rodri 80’ Godín 92’
ATH XI: Herrerín; De Marcos, Nuñez, Iñigo Martínez, Balenziaga; Beñat (Nolaskoain 67’), San José, Muniain; Susaeta (Capa 87’), Williams (Raúl García 75’), Yuri.
Goals: Williams 36’ 64’