Neither Saúl Ñíguez nor Diego Simeone could explain Atlético Madrid’s poor performance on Saturday night at Ipurúa.
Atlético lost 2-0 with goals in either half, and could fall eight points behind both Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, with the team’s spot in the top four in more danger than any title challenge.
Atlético had one clear chance from Álvaro Morata’s head, but it was a series of half-chances otherwise. João Felix and Vitolo were brought off late in the second half with Atlético chasing the game. The former was subbed for Sergio Camello, an 18-year-old making his season debut — he scored against Levante in his senior debut last year — while Renan Lodi came on in an attempt to add more attacking impetus.
It was a poor start to be sure, that much they agreed. But aside from that there were no answers as to why this problem exists any the mattress makers are starting games in second gear.
“The start cost us a lot,” Saúl said. “They created three chances and they scored with the third. It’s happened a lot of times this season when we don’t start well. It’s a problem for everyone to come into the game strong, and after they score it’s that much harder with the score against you, with the fear that they can score a second.
“I think the end of the first and start of the second (halves) were good, but they defended well, we didn’t create clear chances despite getting to the endline a few times,” he continued. “We were missing a lot.
“When you don’t win the second ball, you can’t attack,” the midfielder/left back said. “Maybe we were wrong too with the long ball and it had to be more diagonal to create two-on-one with the full-back. In the end, these are decisions by the players and we have to be more intelligent.”
Simeone preached patience and staying the course.
“You have to have patience,” he said. “And know what the objective is. We are worried about ourselves, not those above us or below us.”
Cholo also was asked about signing a striker.
“One result won’t have me thinking about something we have been talking about for a long time.”
Atlético remain linked with Edinson Cavani, but a deal seems difficult — Paris Saint-Germain are relentless, insistent negotiators.