Diego Simeone made four changes — here’s how the new guys did.
Santiago Arias: Deportivo Alavés’ best first half chance emerged from a 39th minute Aleix Vidal free kick. Left back Rubén Duarte got in behind Arias at the back post and had an opportunity to guide his shot on target — luckily for the Colombian, he scuffed it.
The second half was better defensively for Arias, who cleared an Oliver Burke shot off the line about five minutes after Álvaro Morata opened the scoring. He showed his class from attacking positions too, and passed accurately (86 percent) and positively.
Héctor Herrera: Failed to sustain an attacking presence in the first half — he missed Thomas Lemar on a 42nd minute through ball could have sent him clear. HH improved in the second half, where he lofted a good cross for Renán Lodi (the Brazilian’s shot skittered wide), saw a decent long-range attempt fly wide and made a big tackle in his own box. I was disappointed to see him substituted with half an hour left.
Marcos Llorente: A serious missed opportunity for the former Alavés midfielder. Simeone’s decision to leave him in the dressing room after halftime was the correct one and almost certainly predicated by his 16th minute yellow card which really could have been a red. Llorente cut right through Lucas Pérez’s Achilles — the type of foul that saw, for example, Luka Modrić get sent off back in August.
Diego Costa: If you want to argue that Cholo Simeone plays favorites, this guy is the case study. Mere seconds after his substitution, Morata and Ángel Correa combined to put Atlético ahead (if only for 15 minutes). Costa took 15 touches, completed three passes (out of nine) and once again went without a shot on target.
The key number
2 — Lucas Pérez’s objectively-stunning 84th minute strike marked the second time in 10 days in which Atlético Madrid lost a 1-0 lead in the final 10 minutes. Also, Lucas’ goal — in which he turned away easily from Saúl and Lodi — was the first goal Atleti conceded from open play in LaLiga since Sept. 1.
Touch map of the game
This comes from the first half, in which Atlético managed 47 percent possession against the team that averages the lowest amount of time on the ball in the entire league. You will see Alavés’ 18-yard box on the left — Atleti took two touches in it over the first 45 minutes. One was a Saúl header he hit wide in the first minute.
Meh. Atlético’s issues endemic to away games are deeply-ingrained and well-known to opponents at this point. For three-plus years, Simeone’s men have thrown away chances to capitalize on dropped points elsewhere by...struggling to get into the game and proceeding to drop points themselves.
Home teams know that if they just stack bodies in midfield and hang around for the first hour (give or take), it’s anyone’s game. Morata and Correa each missed point-blank chances immediately after the opening goal, and Atleti didn’t threaten again. Once more, drawing as many games as you win is no way to launch a serious title challenge.