Atlético Madrid dropped points for the eighth time this season after a 1-1 draw against Girona at Montilivi on Sunday afternoon. Diego Simeone might opt to look at it as a point earned after going behind, but with the chances Atlético had in the second half, it might be a chance missed with Barcelona to play Villarreal at Camp Nou later on Sunday night.
Saúl Ñíguez deputised at left-back in Filipe Luís’ absence and Simeone opted for Thomas Lemar, Thomas Partey, Koke and Rodri in midfield, with Diego Costa lining up beside Antoine Griezmann in what could be his last game for a while if the club does decide to opt for surgery on his lingering foot injury.
Atlético were the better side in the opening 45 minutes with a nice combination between Griezmann, Costa and eventually Saúl ending with a shot against the underside of the woodwork. If that one went in, the game might have been different, but Girona slowly worked their way into the match after that let-off.
The Catalans had the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time when a sloppy Rodri pass made its way to Cristhian Stuani, who had his foot clipped by Jan Oblak just inside the penalty area. The initial diagnosis was a free, but the VAR officials upgraded that to a penalty. Stuani straightened himself out and sent the Slovene the wrong way to give the home side the lead.
Atlético dominated the second half with the occasional counter keeping Oblak on his toes. But los rojiblancos lacked the final ball, that sprinkle of creativity, the audaciousness of an attacker willing to break the line and create a little chaos.
(It all turned out very predictable, actually.)
That was until Girona made their way up the field and left themselves exposed. Ángel Correa, who came off the bench and livened up Atlético’s attack, launched a ball onto Costa’s aching foot, but he was able to forget the pain long enough to control it before Jonás Ramalho made it back only in time to slot it past his own keeper, substitute Gorka Iraizoz.
Gorka had come off the bench to replace Bono in goal after the starter suffered a muscle injury, and he saved Girona twice with a world-class save from a Saúl effort with the score at 1-0. This was followed by a late rejection of Gelson Martins, who struck it low and could have given Atlético the win.
In the end, Simeone’s side left Girona frustrated and Cholo is yet to beat Girona as a manager. The parity in LaLiga is helping them, but dropping points in eight games out of 14 to date is not title-winning form.