Atlético Madrid produced one of their best performances of the season on Sunday night as they overcame Alavés 2-1 at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano in a result which doesn’t quite reflect the dominance of a home side that eased off in the second half.
The game’s first goal came from Rodrigo Riquelme, as Álvaro Morata cut the ball across the box and into his path to give Atlético the lead. Just before half-time, Morata turned into the finisher as he slammed in the night’s second goal. Eventually, Alavés pulled one back with one of the final kicks of the game as Ander Guevara secured a consolation effort for the visitors.
Here are the four leading talking points from the game.
1. A scintillating run of home form
With this win, Atlético made it 14 consecutive league victories on home soil, tying a decade-old club record. It is a run that started in February with a 1-0 win over Athletic Club, and it has now extended through to the end of October across both LaLiga and the Champions League.
(Atlético’s all-time best home run is a streak of 20 consecutive victories between May 2012 and February 2013, at the Vicente Calderón. Of those 20 wins, 14 came in LaLiga.)
This was also one of Atleti’s best performances of the season, but they were unfortunately robbed at the death of keeping a fifth clean sheet during this run of form and a first home clean sheet of the season when Guevara scored a consolation. Alavés were weak rivals, but Atleti were strong and in complete control from start to finish, never looking troubled.
Atleti have not tasted defeat at home since Barcelona visited in January, and equally that game was a harsh result where the hosts deserved more. Since then, there have been 15 wins and one draw — a 1-1 tie with Getafe in early February.
Runs like this are making the Metropolitano feel like home, just as the Calderón once was. On a cold, wet, Sunday night, there was every reason for this encounter to have been a drab affair with little atmosphere, but instead there was a real party feeling rocking around the arena.
Three consecutive home games in November, all 9pm kick-offs local time, couldn’t come at a better time.
2. Quarterback Koke is the best in the game
There were plenty of highlights in this game to look back on, but arguably the best was the second goal, which originated with the ball at Jan Oblak’s feet. He played it to Koke, who dropped deep, and with just two touches he opened up and sprayed a 50-yard pass to cut open the Alavés defence and feed through Álvaro Morata. The forward took a disappointing first touch but cut back and produced a composed finish with his weaker left foot.
In doing so, Koke provided his 89th LaLiga assist, putting him fifth in the competition’s all-time rankings, and his 102nd in all competitions. That sets him apart as the solitary leading assistant in the club’s history, leapfrogging the legendary Enrique Collar.
Don’t know who that is? Collar just happens to be the man whose picture is printed on every single season-ticket holder’s pass for 2023/24.
| Koke (102) is now the player with the most assists in the history of Atlético de Madrid. pic.twitter.com/vHejSj8SWa— Atletico Universe (@atletiuniverse) October 29, 2023
In total, Koke completed 127 of his 134 attempted passes on Sunday night to continue his trend of incredibly-accurate distribution, and he created two chances in the process.
With Koke in the base of the midfield, Rodrigo de Paul and Saúl Ñíguez were afforded greater freedom to roam and to break through the lines with Koke distributing from deep. Once again, he shows himself as the leader through his play.
3. How did Rodrigo Riquelme end up being second-choice at left wing-back?
In Glasgow in midweek, Diego Simeone opted to give a chance at wing-back to Javi Galán on the left with Samuel Lino absent due to injury. It didn’t quite work out. On Sunday night, the coach opted for the man who did a better job in the second half in Scotland: Rodrigo Riquelme.
After his loan spell at Girona last season, playing in an offensive midfield role, Riquelme probably wasn’t anticipating that his breakthrough at the Metropolitano would come as a left wing-back. But his performances continue to show that he is a very valuable option in the squad and could provide real competition for Lino when the Brazilian fit again.
With a superbly-taken goal in an advanced position, timing his run well and then cutting in before firing past Antonio Sivera at his near post, Riquelme showed an element to his game that sets him apart — a cutting edge in the final third. It’s worth remembering that this goal takes his tally for the season to two, which puts him level with a certain Vinícius Júnior and on double the number of goals from João Félix, on half the number of minutes of either. Not bad.
2023/24 stats in LaLiga— Sam Leveridge (@samleveridge) October 29, 2023
Goals: 2 pic.twitter.com/VV2QsY7KjQ
There is still room for improvement in his game, and it’s clear that Galán offers a more defensively-sound option. However, Riquelme won four defensive duels, made two clearances and recovered possession on four more occasions. This was a rounded and complete display, and one which is almost certain to see him earn more starts going forward.
4. More promising signs from Samu Omorodion
For the second time this season, Atlético’s defence was tested by the strength and speed of Samu Omorodion. While the young centre-forward may have joined Atlético in August, this was his second appearance at the Metropolitano in opposition colours. This time he was less impactful than when he featured for Granada in August, but that was also in part thanks to an improved defensive display.
The 19-year-old attacker had limited service from his Alavés teammates, who relied primarily on long balls over the top for him to run onto. He struggled to find gaps in behind in the same way as he had last time he visited.
Even still, Samu showed glimpses. He completed every one of his attempted passes and made a smart dribbling move to really threaten Atlético, while also being the focal point of the opposition’s attacking strategy. Axel Witsel did excellently to engage him in the aerial battles, and it will be a great deal of frustration for the forward that he lost all five of his aerial duels.
Atleti, meanwhile, can breathe a sigh of relief that his only shot was blocked on three minutes as he swung his right boot goalward after a throw-in routine. There would be no repeat of seeing him celebrate as he did in August, but it surely won’t be long before he is celebrating at the Metropolitano one way or another.