Athletic Club became the second consecutive team to exit the Wanda Metropolitano with a goalless draw — though a shorthanded Atlético Madrid will be considerably more aggrieved with Saturday afternoon’s result.
To start, Simeone swapped out Wednesday’s João Félix-Luis Suárez strike partnership, turning to Ángel Correa and Antoine Griezmann — a pair the coach utilized throughout 2017 and 2018. In addition, Rodrigo De Paul stepped in for the injured Koke while Renan Lodi was selected to offer Yannick Carrasco some rest — the Belgian had played all but 20 minutes this season entering Saturday.
The first chance came within the first minute, when a flying Marcos Llorente crossed for Griezmann. The Frenchman tried a half volley but didn’t guide the shot on target, and Griezmann hit a weak left-footed shot in the 17th minute that Iñigo Lekue easily cleared away.
Though the reigning champions succeeded in escaping Athletic’s pressure thanks to the efforts of Geoffrey Kondogbia and especially De Paul, Atlético’s only shot on target in the first half was a Stefan Savić header from a Kondogbia cross. Despite trying to impose a faster, more threatening style on the game — the opposite of how Wednesday’s match wnet against Porto — Atleti entered the half goalless.
Correa hit a diving header wide from a Lodi cross almost immediately after the restart, while Iñaki Williams blew a breakaway chance a few minutes later. Williams sidestepped José Giménez to set up a one-on-one with Jan Oblak, but the forward missed absolutely everything on the ensuing shot.
The game continued relatively quietly until the final 20 minutes, when a controversial — even nonsensical — decision produced a chaotic climax.
Moments after Marcos Llorente struck the far post with an outside-the-box effort, referee Jesús Gil Manzano — who missed a blatant handball in the buildup to the only goal in Atlético’s loss to Sevilla last April — sent off Félix in the 78th minute.
Athletic midfielder Unai Vencedor grabbed Félix’s jersey around the halfway line, but the Portuguese was shown a yellow card — Gil Manzano thought Vencedor going to ground was a function of Félix’s arm hitting him in the face, rather than what it actually was. Félix’s arm flailed outward as a function of the player moving at high speed (or “running,” as it is sometimes called).
Félix was then shown a second card for mouthing off at the referee, reportedly telling him “you are crazy.”
The 21-year-old exited the pitch in a fury, and Athletic’s players began to take more chances and tackle more aggressively following the decision. Iñaki’s little brother Nico Williams went studs-up into Oblak’s arms and chest trying to win the ball in the 18-yard box, leading to a crowd gathering behind the Atlético goal shortly after.
The colchoneros continued to press for an increasingly-unlikely winner and received a let-off when Asier Villalibre missed a golden chance as stoppage time began. But Unai Simón wouldn’t have another save to make, and Atlético’s players hovered around the officials as the final whistle blew at 96:02 — as the hosts were starting one last counterattack.
Simeone’s men play at winless Getafe next, on Tuesday.
ATM XI Oblak; Savić, Giménez, Hermoso; Trippier (Cunha 77’), Llorente, Kondogbia (Herrera 55’), De Paul, Lodi (Carrasco 55’); Griezmann (Suárez 55’), Correa (Félix 60’; red card 78’).
ATH XI Simón; Lekue, Iñigo Martínez, Vivian, Balenziaga; Berenguer, Dani García (Zarraga 87’), Vencedor (Vesga 80’), Muniain (Morcillo 81’); Raúl García (Nico Williams 63’), Iñaki Williams (Villalibre 63’).