Atlético Madrid on Sunday won an intense, grueling battle with top-four rivals Real Sociedad, the hosts leaving it late to seal a 2-1 win at the Cívitas Metropolitano and enter the international break on a high note.
Siete lesionados de media— David Vinuesa Malbac (@Dvinuesa) October 8, 2023
Por momentos sin centrales o sin nueves o sin cincos
Jugando cada 3 días
Atlético 3-1 Real Madrid
Osasuna 0-2 Atlético
Atlético 3-2 Cádiz
Atlético 3-2 Feyenoord
Atlético 2-1 Real Sociedad
Samuel Lino kicked off the scoring with a tidy near-post finish, opening his Atlético account in style midway through the first half. Real Sociedad skipper Mikel Oyarzabal equalized on 73 minutes, beating Jan Oblak one-on-one after Carlos Fernández released him into space in the Atleti half.
But Fernández then gave away the decisive penalty in the final minutes, his left hand getting in the way of an Antoine Griezmann shot. Griezmann stepped up on 89 minutes and sent Álex Remiro the wrong way, leading his current club to a big victory over his old one.
Here are three figures that decided the partidazo in the Metropolitano.
The number of shots that Real Sociedad star Take Kubo attempted in 65 minutes on the pitch.
Kubo has been on fire for La Real this season. Entering Sunday afternoon’s match, the 22-year-old had scored four goals in his previous four appearances in LaLiga EA Sports — and for the season, he's scoring at a rate of 0.79 goals per 90 minutes, more than double his output (0.33 goals per 90) from 2022/23.
Granted, Kubo is healthily over-performing his expected goals mark (five scored from 1.3 non-penalty xG). But the Japan international is still one of the most dangerous players in Spain — an inventive playmaker and a volume dribbler with a low center of gravity, qualities that make him an absolute nightmare in 1v1 matchups.
Diego Simeone had a plan to combat this — just like he did for Jude Bellingham when Real Madrid visited the Metropolitano two weekends ago. In the first half on Sunday, Atlético routinely sent double-teams toward Kubo whenever he got the ball. Lino held up well on his own, but with Rodrigo de Paul shading over to help, Kubo constantly found himself pinned around the touchline, largely unable to cut inside or dribble through to the 18-yard box.
Kubo finished with two key passes and one completed dribble across his 41 touches. Along with Simeone’s decision to have Álvaro Morata man-mark Martín Zubimendi — cutting off La Real’s buildup through the middle — this was one of the game’s key strategic choices.
This is how Atleti has managed to keep Take #Kubo quiet so far.— Emmanuel (@LigaLavo) October 8, 2023
Denying him 1v1s after #LaReal has shifted the block & made a switch. Interiors (#Llorente - right, #dePaul left) key in denying both #Kubo & #Barrenetxea 1v1s.pic.twitter.com/9swwc796WT
Kubo only really wriggled free once — but when he did, the Japanese showed his quality. At the very end of the first half, Kubo found a little space to his left and pinged a cross toward Oblak’s back post, where Oyarzabal exploited the space between 34-year-old defenders César Azpilicueta and Axel Witsel to flash a header toward goal. Fortunately for Atlético, the txuri-urdin captain headed the ball off the roof of the net.
The one time where #Kubo cuts onto his left foot without meeting a wall and he’s creates #LaReal’s best chance of the game. #Kubo uses Brais #Mendez’s run as a decoy.pic.twitter.com/CVkeL8WbWj https://t.co/Og1HW0bBM9— Emmanuel (@LigaLavo) October 8, 2023
According to the Atlético Stats account on Twitter, this is the number of assists that Koke has registered in LaLiga since his debut in September 2009. This is the highest total of any player in the position over that time, and a total that only three players have exceeded period.
— Atlético Stats (@atletico_stats_) October 8, 2023
Desde su debut en la 2009/10, Koke es el centrocampista que ha dado MÁS ASISTENCIAS en LaLiga (79).
⚠️Al menos 11 más que cualquier otro en este período (Parejo, 68).
Solo Messi (165), Benzema (105) y Cristiano Ronaldo (87) han dado más que el '6' en este período. pic.twitter.com/gyfdmtvvEk
Koke on Sunday produced arguably his finest performance of the 2023/24 campaign to date, and his first half was especially good. In the 22nd minute, the captain provided his first assist this season with a lofted ball for Lino, sent over the top of Real Sociedad’s defense. Lino escaped the less-than-watchful gaze of right-back Hamari Traoré and sprinted into the penalty area past the trailing center-back Igor Zubeldia, who was busy tracking Griezmann. The Brazilian took a light touch and beat Remiro easily with a crisp near-post shot.
(Watch Griezmann immediately point to Koke in celebration after the ball goes in.)
The assist was one of Koke’s two key passes on the afternoon. No Atlético player attempted more passes (47), no one ran more kilometers, and he added a couple clearances while marshaling a sturdier midfield than we saw Wednesday in the Champions League — first with de Paul and Marcos Llorente either side of him, then with Saúl Ñíguez and Rodrigo Riquelme late on.
With Koke in the lineup this season, Atlético have played six and won all six. Without him? One win from four. The 31-year-old remains fundamental for Simeone and the club — and his status as one of the best Spanish midfielders of the 21st century is discussed far too infrequently.
The number of consecutive home wins Atlético have accrued in all competitions, dating back to last season. Thirteen of these wins have come in league play, one away from tying the club record in LaLiga, set between 2012 and 2013.
Atlético have not dropped points in the Metropolitano since a 1-1 draw with Getafe on Feb. 4. Atleti have not lost at home since Jan. 8, the unfortunate 1-0 defeat to FC Barcelona — coincidentally or otherwise, João Félix’s (probable) final game for the club.
Strangely, Atlético have not kept a clean sheet at home since the 3-0 demolition of Osasuna on May 21. But Los Rojiblancos have scored at least twice in each of their past 10 games in the new Metropolitano, their ruthlessness steering them toward their longest-ever home winning streak — including their time at Estadio Vicente Calderón, at the old pre-1966 Metropolitano, or at the new stadium east of the city center.
After six years, the Metropolitano has finally become a fortress. The coach believes it, the players believe it, and the fans believe it. Atlético will be in the title race into the springtime if it can continue feeding off this energy and keeping the three points in Madrid.