ATM XI: Oblak, Juanfran (Vitolo 54’), Savić, Godín, Vrsaljko; Correa (Torres 45’), Saúl, Thomas (Gabi 75’), Koke; Gameiro, Griezmann.
RSO XI: Rulli, Elustondo, Navas, Moreno, Bella, Canales, Illarramendi, Pardo (Zurutuza 65’), Januzaj, Oyarzabal (Juanmi 72’), Willian Jose (Bautista 89’).
As is often the case, Real Sociedad have some very talented individual players struggling through an underwhelming season. But Anoeta is a difficult venue for Atlético Madrid to play in — they lost 2-0 there last year and have just one win there since 2014. The team selected by Diego Simeone had to make due with no true left backs, so Šime Vrsaljko played as an inverted full back.
This was somewhat of a concern given the talented wingers that La Real deploy, and it was a problem just 27 minutes in, as Adnan Januzaj got into a good position on the wing before picking out Willian José, who pinged Sociedad in the lead. It was a poor start from Atleti, who had a couple of chances, but nothing clear-cut to that point. Antoine Griezmann should have had a point to prove, given he has performed well against his former club in the past.
Atlético’s attack looked quite toothless through most of the first half, with very little offered by the wingers and strikers — quite a lot of the work fell on Saúl and Thomas’ shoulders when it came to making things happen. At halftime Atleti had just three shots and only one on target. In response to this poor first half, Simeone brought on Fernando Torres in place of Ángel Correa — which did not really make sense, as Atleti then had three strikers, with Griezmann dropping a bit deeper than the other two. Eventually, Vitolo was brought on for Juanfran, which made the team a tad more balanced. Even still, the mattress makers could not get any more shots on target.
The changes made little impact other than Vrsaljko becoming more involved, but still lacking the end product. Real Sociedad were very content to frustrate Atlético, and by taking the lead in the first half, Atleti had a lot of work to do with a fairly limited squad, which created chances on the counter. Willian José could have made it two for the home side on 71 minutes from a counter attack, but he missed wide. The only positive was that most of the hosts’ shots were from outside the box, but it was a big issue that they got into those situations in the first place.
This game was summed up by the two substitutions from minutes 72 through 80, when Juanmi replaced Mikel Oyarzabal, Gabi replaced Thomas and on 80’ Juanmi scored, having not been on the pitch for ten minutes. Willian José again caused Atleti all sorts of problems, and this time was the provider for Juanmi. He then did the trick again as he scored in stoppage time to pile on the pain. You know it’s a bad day when a 5’7” striker scores a header against Jan Oblak.
Everything about Thursday was bad, and neither the players nor the manager did anything worth noting. The team played terribly and the substitutions were totally worthless. Hopefully this is just a blip, and it’s worth noting that none of LaLiga’s top four won in midweek, but Atleti can’t have any more of these if they want to hold on to second place. The breathing room they could have had is gone, and it at least makes the last La Liga games stressful — they have just a three point lead over Real Madrid.