Atlético Madrid sealed their second home win of the season in LaLiga as they overcame Girona at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano on Saturday afternoon.
The 2-1 victory came courtesy of a brace from Ángel Correa, and both goals came in the early stages of each half. Rodrigo Riquelme, playing against his parent club, made Atleti fans sweat by reducing the distance between the two teams with a deflected goal late on.
Here are three things we learned from the game.
Ángelito deserves a shot
In two starts this season, Ángel Correa has scored three goals.
Once again, the Argentina international has had an opportunity to shine from the start of a game, and once again he has taken it. It took Correa only four minutes to open the scoring, with good positioning and movement allowing him to sneak in a poacher’s finish at the far post. It was the kind of finish which Correa has added to his repertoire as a centre forward in recent years, and it makes him such a valuable option for Atleti.
Griezmann finds Correa to put Atletí up early pic.twitter.com/P6FISznKyN— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) October 8, 2022
Correa was Atlético’s top scorer last season and is only one goal behind Álvaro Morata this season, despite having played almost half as many minutes (377) compared to the Spanish international (733). Once labelled a “super sub” by many, it now seems that the opposite Is true. Correa has struggled at times to be that impact player that he once was off the bench. That hasn’t been the case when he’s starting.
Correa has 0.87 goals per 90, by far the best rate in the squad, and his movement and pressing caused Girona problems throughout. His press for the second goal was fortunate but is the kind of press that few other forward options within the squad can offer.
The question is: why isn’t Correa starting every game? It’s a question that only Diego Simeone seems able to answer, and it’s hard to imagine being convinced by whatever he says.
Jan Oblak is back to his best
It feels like it’s been a while since Oblak almost single-handedly won points for Atlético de Madrid, and it’s no secret that he hasn’t been at his best over the last 12 months. Against Girona on Saturday, he most certainly was.
In the final stages of the game, it was almost one-way traffic, with Girona throwing everything at Atleti in the hunt for an equaliser. Oblak had to be in top form to deny them with a string of fine saves.
In particular, one save to deny Aleix García was reminiscent of peak Oblak. The Catalans tried everything but Oblak was up to it and denied them (almost) every time, tipping the ball onto the post or wide or simply clearing it completely. They could not find a way through in the latter stages.
Getting the Slovenian back to his best is at the very heart of Atlético’s ambitions if they are to tighten up defensively, which has to be a priority. Atleti’s xG against is actually the fourth-lowest in LaLiga, yet the goals conceded figure is almost identical with seven conceded from 7.8 xG against.
That is where Oblak can make a huge difference for the Rojiblancos if he can get back to conceding fewer than his xG would suggest, as has been the case for most of his Atlético career.
Coming up to a pivotal time in the season, it feels like this performance could be a potential turning point for Oblak personally. If that is the case, it could have significant knock-on effects if Atleti can recover their veteran goalkeeper’s very best form.
Rodrigo Riquelme has more of a future at Atleti than João Félix
Something rare happened on Saturday afternoon as the Metropolitano applauded a rival goal. Only it wasn’t really a rival goal. But it kind of was.
Atlético loanee Rodrigo Riquelme was (inexplicably) allowed to play for Girona against his parent club, and showed them every reason why he shouldn’t have been.
Roro earned plenty of admiration from Atleti fans throughout the game with his flair and energy, tracking back to help cover defensively while also being one of Girona’s biggest offensive outlets.
In the end, it was his goal that brought Girona back into the game, as his 25-yard effort deflected off Josema Giménez’s leg just enough to take it past Oblak’s outstretched arm. As he put his hands together to ask for forgiveness, most in the stadium were wishing Riquelme was wearing a red and white shirt this season instead.
And it came at a time when Atlético fans were making clear to João Félix that their patience with him is running out.
Following a petulant display as a substitute against Sevilla last weekend, João was then warned by Profe Ortega for his lack of intensity warming up in Brugge. As he came on as a substitute at the Metropolitano, fans booed and whistled him.
Things are not working out for the man who joined the club as a €126 million superstar. He has not scored since April, and his performances have done little to impress. Add in a poor work ethic and a big ego, and it’s easy to see why fans are voicing their frustrations.
In a game where Ángel Correa scored a brace, Matheus Cunha threatened, Antoine Griezmann produced his best performance in some time and Álvaro Morata came on and looked dangerous, João may well have dropped to fifth choice in his position. Ouch.