Atlético Madrid’s curse against Levante continued on Thursday, when a late Enis Bardhi penalty cost the team two valuable points in a 2-2 draw.
After the final whistle, there was one obvious talking point: the referee. Pablo González Fuertes didn’t make himself any friends in the Atlético dressing room with his performance.
“We have to improve and we can’t use the referee as an excuse,” Simeone began, before launching into a tirade. “Not for their penalty goal, not for the other penalty, not for the 200 kicks to João Félix which had no consequence.
“My sending off? The referee interpreted that I made an unnecessary gesture for the justice that he commands on the pitch. I felt like when I was playing, when you have a yellow card and you know that they’re looking for a reason to give you another one at any time. And it came.
“Everything the referee does on the pitch is understood by him that it’s a penalty, you (the media) are the ones here to comment and the rules are there to look at. Nothing will change no matter how much I give my opinion, don’t make me talk.”
Simeone wasn’t the only one to discuss the topic, either.
“They say that VAR should be beneficial, but today it wasn’t for us. For any little thing we did, yellow card. It’s not an excuse, but often it conditions the game,” Héctor Herrera said.
“It annoys me that we had seven yellow cards and they had one. They didn’t stop fouling João (Félix),” Antoine Griezmann added. “It should be the same for both teams.”
The coach was keen to turn the page regarding the refereeing, though, and did shift the focus onto Atlético’s shortcomings.
“(Levante) could have scored in other moves,” Simeone insisted. “The reality is that we have to improve urgently. We have to work, improve, and try to come out of this moment, one negative thing brings others. The team is scoring goals, but we’re let down by other situations.”
“We were 1-0 up and we relaxed, that’s what cost us,” Griezmann reflected. “We’re a bit angry, because we want to add three points after three points. Right now, it’s costing us.
“In the last few games we’ve gone behind after 15 minutes, today we’ve improved because we started the game well but at the end this penalty came.”
The game in Valencia was also important for Griezmann, as he scored his first LaLiga goal for Atlético since returning to the club on loan on deadline day. It’s echoed promising performances in the Champions League, but the forward clearly wants more.
“I’m doing more now, I’ve been in an adaptation period, I’m feeling better on the pitch, with a spark, confident on the ball and in the end, goals will come,” the Frenchman said. “I want to be at my best level as soon as possible.
“It’s easy to play with João and Luis (Suárez), they look for the ball and spaces and it’s fun to play with those guys up front.”
The trio played together in attack for the second consecutive game, having also combined as a trident against Real Sociedad in another frustrating draw on Sunday evening.