Ángel Correa wasn’t supposed to play Sunday, let alone complete 90 minutes. The MCL sprain he sustained in his right knee last weekend was supposed to keep him sidelined for longer than just one game, but Diego Simeone selected him anyway for Atlético Madrid’s matchday eight fixture against Cádiz at the Cívitas Metropolitano.
“He ended training well,” Simeone said about Correa on Saturday.
Turns out Correa really was fine — well, fine enough. Postgame on Sunday, the forward told DAZN that he wanted to didn’t want to leave Antoine Griezmann alone up top, so he willed himself into action to replace the suspended Álvaro Morata.
“I took a really strong blow to the knee. ... I wanted to force myself to play and it turned out well,” Correa said.
El compromiso de @AngelCorrea32 con el @Atleti está fuera de toda duda ⚪— DAZN España (@DAZN_ES) October 1, 2023
"Tuve un golpe muy fuerte en la rodilla, quise forzar para ayudar al equipo y salió bien" #ElPostDeDAZN ⚽ pic.twitter.com/MFdYvtrllh
It sure did. Correa scored twice in Atlético’s comeback win over Cádiz, where Los Colchoneros fell behind 2-0 before mounting a rally to win 3-2. Correa’s goals bookended the remontada, and the second strike was the product of a well-worked team move that showed the progression in Atleti’s efforts to play faster and better with the ball.
The sequence begins from a wasteful Cádiz throw. Left-back Lucas Pires — who scored the visitors’ first goal — tries to find Rubén Sobrino, but pressure from substitute José Giménez pops the ball free. Nahuel Molina recovers it and effectively begins the move, forming a triangle with Axel Witsel and César Azpilicueta. The latter looks up and decides to go long after a quick one-two with Witsel.
Cádiz had done well to capitalize on the hosts’ early sloppiness, building a 2-0 lead as it sought a first-ever away win over Atlético. Pires scored on 12 minutes in controversial fashion, as Atleti (perhaps rightly) claimed fouls on both Koke and Rodrigo Riquelme in the buildup. Azpilicueta made a mistake in the buildup to the second goal, flicking a Conan Ledesma goal kick into Roger Martí’s path for the former Levante forward to chip past Jan Oblak.
But one of the reasons for the Andalusians’ short-lived resistance was their inability to use the ball well, with cheap giveaways like the one above commonplace throughout the game.
Witsel’s layoff under pressure (one of his 130 pass attempts) for Azpilicueta frees the former Chelsea skipper to ping a line-breaking ball toward Griezmann, who has drawn the attention of left-sided center-back Javi Hernández. Because Griezmann pulls Hernández so far out of the play — and Pires is lagging behind as well — it’s up to midfielder Gonzalo Escalante to keep up with Molina, who is away rather quickly thanks to a good touch and his blazing speed.
Griezmann had a frustrating Sunday night in front of goal, missing two big chances in the opening minutes before cracking a free kick off the roof of Ledesma’s net and sending another effort wide from 14 yards. But Griezmann is a winning player, and winning players make winning contributions with their guile, their creativity, and their irrepressible drive to succeed.
That’s why Griezmann’s smart, probably instinctive header into space for Molina is the decisive moment in this passage of play. In other elite sides, a star player like Griezmann would be at the other end insisting on finishing this move, not playing an auxiliary role from the defensive third. This is what makes him special.
Molina, who scored Atlético’s second goal, is not in a position to carry on his run, so he sends a searching ball all the way across the penalty arc. This is where Samuel Lino — having scampered undetected to the edge of the area — easily latches on to it, takes a killer touch to stop its spin, and waits for Saúl Ñíguez on his left to make a run to the outside.
I wrote a little about this on Football España last week, but Lino is rapidly becoming a decisive player in this Atlético team. The 23-year-old already has five goal-creating actions in LaLiga from just 255 minutes played. We saw his technical ability and general unpredictability on display at Valencia last year, and now he's showing the physical and tactical capacity to adapt to the very-demanding Yannick Carrasco role.
Although Riquelme started this game at left wing-back and did fine, Lino needed just five minutes after entering the game to facilitate the winning goal.
Saúl is getting into the final third and making more runs to the outside early this season, and he’s showing a promising connection with Lino. As a result, he already has a career-high for assists (five) in a league season. Here, Saúl waits for Lino to take a second touch and releases him with a through ball. Cádiz defenders are scrambling into position, and with his first touch Saúl plays a low cross to Correa — who has accelerated through the gap between Escalante and center-back Momo Mbaye.
The World Cup winner does the rest, taking advantage of Ledesma’s aggressive goalkeeping and going to ground to pop the ball into the top of the net. That's how you complete a comeback.