Luis Suárez stunned everybody when he elected to join Atlético Madrid after FC Barcelona kicked him to the Camp Nou curb last September. The 34-year-old embarked on an epic revenge tour once the season got underwat, scoring 11 game-winning goals among his 21 overall in LaLiga. He became Atlético’s first 20-goal scorer in five years as the rojiblancos took the title on the last day.
“I told him, ‘you know what (the title race) is about, you have to transmit that to the rest,’ Diego Simeone said after his men beat Real Valladolid last Saturday. “He came (to Atlético) to rebel.”
And rebel he did, steering Atleti to just its third league crown since 1977. Suárez personally claimed his fifth Spanish title in seven seasons there — and he even went so far to say this one is different gravy.
After much — well, some deliberation — I selected my five favorite Suárez strikes from this past season. The criteria centers on a given goal’s importance (then and now), and I also wanted to reward a couple of El Pistolero’s more aesthetically-pleasing snipes. Without further ado...
5. Sept. 27: Debut goal versus Granada
A dream start to Suárez’s life at Atlético — the cherry on top of a cake that said “hey, wait a minute, Atleti might be darn good this year.”
This header was the second of three goals Suárez created in his 20-minute cameo against Granada. His first touch was a flicked pass to Marcos Llorente, which the midfielder duly buried to put Atlético 4-0 up. Deep into stoppage time, Suárez then smacked a shot off the post before slotting in the rebound — the final blow in a 6-1 demolition of the eventual Europa League quarterfinalists.
4. Jan. 21: Panenka at Eibar
Atlético had endured a rough night at Ipurua, falling behind to goalkeeper Marko Dmitrović’s 12th minute penalty before Suárez equalized before halftime. More than that, though, Eibar’s intensive pressing and tactical fouling had prevented Atleti from escaping neutral. The minutes were ticking away, and it appeared as if the colchoneros would be leaving the Basque Country with only a draw.
Late on, Yannick Carrasco pinged a hopeful long ball into Suárez’s path. The Uruguayan latched onto it, carried on his run into the penalty area, and went down under pressure — if not light contact — from defender Arnaitz Arbilla. The call was certainly debatable, but the wily Suárez was quickly awarded an 89th minute penalty.
And for his first spot kick as an Atlético player, Suárez produced a filthy chip that beat Dmitrović squarely down the middle to win the game.
3. Jan. 31: Free kick at Cádiz
From a pure quality standpoint, this is my favorite goal Suárez scored last year.
He’s giving goalkeeper Jeremías Ledesma the Shawn Michaels “I’m sorry, I love you” look as he’s about to drill the free kick past him from 28 yards out.
We didn’t often get to see Suárez on set pieces at Barcelona — a guy named Messi had that duty — but he stepped up for a direct free kick on occasion this year and ripped this attempt beyond a diving Ledesma. Perfection.
This was the opening goal in an eventual 4-2 victory that extended Atlético’s cushion over Real Madrid to 10 points.
2. May 22: Title-winning goal at Valladolid
Madrid and Barcelona took turns puncturing that aforementioned cushion atop LaLiga over the final few months. But Atlético never lost its lead, and Suárez’s left foot ensured his team would end matchday 38 in the same place it had been since matchday 14 — in first place.
Sergi Guardiola’s inexplicable back pass in the 67th minute last Saturday sent Suárez on his way to history — in a way, a goal that summed up Atlético’s campaign.
1. May 16: 88th-minute goal versus Osasuna
It may not have mathematically clinched LaLiga for Atlético. But nothing tops this one in terms of the drama and the sensaciones around it.
Suárez capped an already-legendary comeback with this slick late winner to deny Real Madrid first place entering the final matchday.
Brilliant scenes. Utterly brilliant.
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