ATM XI: Oblak, Trippier, Hermoso, Giménez, Lodi, Koke, Saúl, Llorente (Vitolo 46’), Lemar (Riquelme 78’), Costa, Félix (Partey 84’)
EIB XI: Dmitrovic, Tejero, Álvarez (Oliveira 55’), Ramis, Arbilla, Diop, Expósito, León (Correa 86’), Orellana, Inui, Charles (Kike Garcia 63’)
Atlético Madrid had a chance Sunday to take ownership of top spot in LaLiga. As such, Atlético Madrid got off to a horrendous start.
Two new signings were culpable for the opener. Renán Lodi failed to mark properly and Mario Hermoso was tragically out of position as La Liga journeyman Charles headed home seven minutes in. The night got worse for Hermoso, who failed to clear the ball properly which allowed Arnitz Arbilla to double the visitors’ lead on 19 minutes. The new central defender has yet to find his footing with Atlético and wouldn’t have started this match if not for Stefan Savić’s foot problem.
Atleti had a great deal of work to do in order to get back into the match. They got the first goal back through Diego Costa’s hard work, as the Spanish-Brazilian muscled his way through the Eibar defense to tee up João Félix for a tap-in. Less than half an hour into the match, there had been more goals than in Atleti’s previous 180 minutes.
Certainly, the goal from Félix helped raise the mood going into halftime, with plenty of time left for a comeback. At halftime, Diego Simeone went for it by bringing on Vitolo for Marcos Llorente, who had a quiet first half. Vitolo added more than a little attacking impetus to the team and equalized on 52 minutes — Lodi did very well to get the ball to Vitolo, who again showed composure in the box to finish beyond Marko Dmitrović.
Atlético capitalized on their equalizer and continued to pile on the pressure. Diego Costa scored two offside goals indicative of some rustiness, but encouraging nonetheless. On 78 minutes Thomas Lemar, who again had a poor match, was replaced by 19-year-old Rodrigo Riquelme, who almost immediately had a great opportunity to score but just missed.
The hero would be third substitute Thomas Partey, who bustled into the box and took two good touches to fire in the winner. The Ghanaian showed off great skill to control the ball in the box with so many defenders swarming. A ton of credit has to go to Simeone for two inspired substitutions, and the other one (Riquelme), also made an impact. With a good deal of depth on the bench now, Cholo pushed the right buttons so far to stir Atlético into life and take all three points.
Los Rojiblancos have won their first three La Liga matches since 2013/14, and we all know what followed that season. There are 35 matches left to play, but it has been a spectacular start for a team which underwent a huge amount of turnover this summer. There will be rough patches, but after early stumbles by Barcelona and Real Madrid, Atlético find themselves in sole possession of first place.