ATM XI: Oblak, Juanfran, Giménez, Godín, Filipe Luis, Saúl, Koke, Rodri (Garcés 71’), Lemar (Correa 59’), Griezmann, Diego Costa
EIB XI: Dmitrovic, Peña, Oliveira, Arbilla, Angel, Diop (Cardona 80’), Alvarez, Blasis, Milla (Escalante 57’), Jordán, Charles (Sergi Enrich 57’)
Atlético Madrid fans and players had to chew for two weeks on their shocking defeat to Celta Vigo just prior to the international break. In order to maintain any semblance of a title challenge, Atlético needed to bounce back immediately against Eibar. Fortunately, Atlético had a good record against Eibar entering this match, with seven wins from eight since the Basque side entered LaLiga.
However, the game’s early knockings were not brilliant for Atlético, as Eibar hit the bar inside the opening minutes. Throughout various periods of the first half, Eibar were able to find space around the outside of Atlético’s box and the home side escaped only due to bad finishing. The best opportunity of the first half came from Thomas Lemar’s corner on 21 minutes, when Saúl was denied brilliantly by Marko Dmitrovic.
The first half was marred by miscommunication and a fractured attack. The midfield four adjusted slowly to each other, but there were some promising signs. Saúl grew more into the game as it approached halftime, while Lemar made some decent runs but lacked the end product.
The second half continued much as the first, with Atlético creating shots for their strikers and Eibar holding strong. Koke, Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann were all denied by Dmitrovic and it just seemed like one of those days for Atlético. In the 71st minute, Diego Simeone rolled the dice and opted to bring on academy product Borja Garcés for his LaLiga debut. The striker impressed during pre-season while high profile summer signing Gelson Martins remained on the bench.
Atlético’s usually prolific front two were dull in front of goal, with Costa and Griezmann both routinely foiled by Dmitrovic. That said, Atleti had five shots on target inside the penalty area and often Simeone’s system relies on his team finishing those chances. And on 87 minutes, Eibar made los colchoneros pay for missing their chances as Sergi Enrich scored a VAR-approved goal to snatch the lead.
It looked done and dusted, but there was to be a final twist as Juanfran and Correa combined on the right and found Borja Garcés for a debut goal. The canterano thrashed the ball into the bottom right corner to grab a point on an otherwise dour day.
Although it is only four games into the new season, an Atlético title push is extremely unlikely now given the disadvantage they’ve already given themselves. Perhaps we all assumed these new additions would gel immediately. Certainly, we expected Costa to be better to bridge the gap to the new players hitting form. At some stage this year, Atlético will be good, but they may be very far out of the league title race once that happens.
Though it was better than it could have been thanks to Borja’s heroics, Atlético still showed signs of defensive frailty, especially at full-back. The midfield and strikers who started this game seemed good, but too many chances went begging. On another day, Atleti might have won this one without issue. However, one hopes this doesn’t spiral any further out of the team’s control.