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Simeone: “When Griezmann is playing well, the team hits another level”

The coach spoke about Atlético’s 12th league win this season.

Atletico de Madrid v Athletic Club - LaLiga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Diego Simeone was a happy camper after his Atlético Madrid team brushed aside Athletic Club at the Cívitas Metropolitano on Sunday. Antoine Griezmann scored the game’s lone goal in the 73rd minute — a slaloming run down the left capped by a shot that kissed the base of the far post and rolled in — and in doing so, consolidated Atlético’s place in LaLiga’s top four and drew the Colchoneros closer to third-place Real Sociedad.

Simeone called the result “a huge victory” and credited Griezmann — the “all-fielder” — with driving the team forward.

Griezmann is decisive for us. When he’s well, the team hits another level,” Simeone said. “He allows us to have more options to transition from defense to attack.”

Atletico de Madrid v Athletic Club - LaLiga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Simeone thought Atlético played well in the first half, but he thought the team could go “one step further.” Atleti proceeded to outshoot Athletic 11-2 in the second half and finished with 57 percent possession, noticeably improving after Memphis and Pablo Barrios entered the fray. Both substitutes played quick one-twos with Griezmann in the buildup to the winning goal.

“The ovation from our people gave me a lot of pride and a lot of happiness,” Griezmann said about his 93rd-minute substitution. “It’s almost better than when you celebrate a goal with the fans, because everyone is on their feet and applauds you for your performance. It encourages me to continue doing what I’m doing and play more games like this.”

Griezmann has been playing at an elite level all season and is third in LaLiga with 13 combined goals and assists. But since returning to action following the FIFA World Cup in December, Griezmann’s teammates have started to join him for the ride.

Atlético have won eight of the past 12 between the league and the Copa del Rey. The sequence hasn’t always been pretty, but the Rojiblancos’ past three league wins have all been by the familiar 1-0 scoreline. They’ve kept seven clean sheets in these last dozen games after recording only four shutouts between August and November.

“The most important thing in life is not to dwell on problems, but to solve them,” Simeone said. “We were out of the Champions League too soon, and later we were knocked out of the Cup, but there was a very clear change after the World Cup. The team works to compete as we’ve always competed, and that gives you the result. It’s not coincidence.”