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Atlético Madrid 2-0 Athletic Club: Defanging the lions

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Three points of interest from the 165th league meeting between the leones and the colchoneros.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Athletic Club - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Saúl helped Atlético Madrid overcome another slow start.

Saúl Ñíguez touches, first half versus Athletic.

As it turns out, good things happen when Saúl operates higher up the pitch. Saúl took nearly a third of his first half touches in Athletic Club territory and began the move which culminated in his goal — effectively, a one-two with Ángel Correa, wherein the Argentine teed up the Spain international to slot home with his left foot.

But until Saúl’s 28th minute goal — his first of the campaign — it had been an uneven, uneasy opening for Atlético, a theme to this point in the season.

Jan Oblak had to claw away a looping Iñigo Martínez header inside the first 75 seconds. Former teammate Raúl García forced him into another difficult save after Saúl put the hosts ahead. Rulo and Iker Muniain attacked the middle of the pitch and Iñaki Williams was able to get free from Diego Simeone’s fresh center back pairing on a few occasions. Athletic were combative in the air and circulated the ball well.

Ángel Correa never left Simeone’s plans, but two assists will help him keep his place.

Scroll back up to read about Correa’s first assist, but his second was even prettier. He called for the ball from Koke, took a turn and lasered a cross through the six-yard box. The cross met Álvaro Morata’s right foot, and he swept past Unai Simón his second goal in as many games.

Once compared to Sergio Äguero, Correa’s skill has never been in doubt but his consistency has for years. On Saturday, the 24-year-old had the opportunity to play as a second striker and grew into the match as it moved along. He took nine touches in the 18-yard box and completed 91 percent(!!!) of his passes in his best display for several months. Maybe it’s a turning point for the mercurial attacker, who once seemed set for an AC Milan before a deal collapsed in the transfer window’s dying days and now has a chance to solidify a spot in João Félix’s absence

Jan Oblak is Europe’s most spectacular shot-stopper.

I mean, come on.

“Obi, Oblak, every day I love you more” has become a common chant in the Wanda Metropolitano’s Fondo Sur, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be. The adulation for Oblak reaches fever pitch after performances like this. The Slovene kept his ninth clean sheet this season — his seventh in the past eight games — and he’s stopped over 80 percent of the shots directed his way this term.

The 26-year-old has had a little more help from his improved defense this season, but Oblak is at least Spain’s best goalkeeper — despite close competition from Barcelona’s Marc-André Ter Stegen — and it is criminal that he has been overlooked for the most prominent goalkeeping awards.