Another thrilling/stressful football match at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday night saw Atlético Madrid snatch a 4-3 victory from the jaws of a 3-3 draw via Mario Hermoso’s last-gasp overhead kick.
Diego Simeone’s 10 Rojiblancos demonstrated character and toughness on the way to completing another remontada against city rivals Getafe. And most importantly, Atlético returned to the top four, pending Sunday’s results.
Here are three key statistics that defined Saturday’s partidazo in the capital.
Atlético’s aggregate goal difference, in LaLiga, when trailing by one or more. Across all game states, Atleti’s overall goal difference is plus-9.
Less than two hours before kickoff, Atlético announced that Diego Simeone would be without the influential Yannick Carrasco — who had tested positive for COVID-19 again. Another shootout ensued without Carrasco and defensive leader José Giménez (also out with COVID).
“Adversity appeared, (Luis Suárez) missed a penalty, from 2-0 up we fall behind 3-2 and then comes the equalizer. The fair red card to Felipe caused us to go to a game that compromised us a lot due to the need to win and the difficulties (with 10 men),” Diego Simeone explained after the game. “The guys, with heart, responded in an extraordinary way.”
These days, an Atlético game feels as likely to end 4-1 to Atleti as it is 4-1 to the opposition. Consistent absences and uncertainties have resulted in a season loaded with shootouts, and an erosion to Cholo’s trademark pragmatism. There has been little tactical cohesion or coordinated strategy from one game to the next throughout the season, and this is why the reigning Spanish champions can now be found clinging to the final Champions League place.
As Stefan Savić said following last week’s thumping at Barcelona, Atlético seem to wake up only when seriously threatened. Perhaps this explains why Atleti have launched so many comebacks this season. There’s no alternative in the absence of control, let alone dominance.
The Rojiblancos have outscored opponents 9-4 when down one goal and 3-1 when behind by more than one. Conversely (and amazingly), Atlético have been outscored by four when ahead by one goal (6-10) and played to a draw when ahead by multiple goals (3-3). It should be no coincidence, then, that Atleti are level with Real Madrid on goals scored (12) in the final 15 minutes of a match.
The chaos these rallies create have sustained Simeone’s men — who wouldn’t even be in the top six without them.
The number of points Hermoso rescued for Atlético with his late, late goals against Valencia and Getafe.
Hermoso has been hammered all season for his shortcomings as a central defender. But he plays with an unassailable swagger, even if it’s sometimes wrong-headed. Undoubtedly, that self-assuredness is just as responsible for 26-year-old’s two game-winners in the past three weeks as it is for his outrageous positional errors.
It takes incredible cojones — not to mention technical skill — to pull this off in the 89th minute of a 3-3 game with your side down to 10 players:
Hermoso wasn’t even supposed to play Saturday. He likely would have stayed on the bench had Felipe Monteiro not gotten himself sent off for a filthy high boot on Mauro Arambarri just before the hour.
“It’s always emotional when you win and when you do it at home, despite not playing your best game and conceding goals. When you come back in the final minutes, it’s more exciting,” Hermoso said postmatch. “We hope it’s a step forward and gives us a lot of moral strength, which is what we want.”
Ángel Correa’s goals per 90 minutes this season, the third-highest mark across the entire league among forwards with 1,000 minutes played.
LaLiga’s reigning Player of the Month added two more goals to his total on Saturday, bringing his league tally to 10 — the first double-digit scoring season in his career. The 26-year-old opened the scoring with an opportunistic tap-in before capping the first half bedlam with a close-range header from a bouncing Thomas Lemar cross. These were his only penalty area touches in the game.
Correa has six goals in his past eight appearances across all competitions, and he has 14 goal contributions in LaLiga in under 1,400 minutes. He has been Atlético’s most consistent forward since August and is simply this team’s best player.
“Ángel gives you life,” Simeone said postgame. “He is all heart, and we need him.”
ATM XI Oblak; Llorente, Felipe (red card 58’), Savić, Reinildo; Kondogbia (De Paul 74’), Koke, Correa (Vrsaljko 74’), Lemar; Cunha (Félix 74’), Suárez (Hermoso 59’)
Goals Correa 20’ 45+4’ Cunha 27’ Hermoso 89’
GET XI Soria; Damián, Mitrović (Mata 76’), Cuenca, Djené, Jankto (Silva 81’); Maksimović, Óscar (Villar 81’), Arambarri; Mayoral, Ünal (Okay 55’)
Goals Mayoral 30’ Ünal 37’ (pen.) 42’ (pen.)