Another visit to Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano ended in disappointment Saturday, not only as the Grada de Animación continued their ‘supporting strike,’ but also because Atletico Madrid dropped two points in a 1-1 draw against Getafe.
Ángel Correa’s unusual goal, awarded while he was already on the bench, finally broke the deadlock for the home team after 62 minutes. But a Saúl Ñíguez handball allowed Enes Ünal to equalise from the penalty spot in the closing stages.
Here are three things we learned from the game.
Atleti’s first halves cost points
The first 45 minutes put Atlético as the completely dominant side in a match which could have been out of sight early on. It wasn’t until 35 minutes that Getafe even got a foothold on the game, with Atleti having all the chances and all the possession.
Antoine Griezmann tested David Soria from distance, while Álvaro Morata had a goal ruled out for offside. Koke and Correa had chances blocked and saved to deny Atleti what would have been a deserved lead.
It’s also true that Mateu Lahoz (who else?) failed to award what looked like a clear penalty and second yellow card as Djené pulled down Morata in the box in the opening stages. That would have been a match-defining moment, but Atleti’s record as the only side yet to be awarded a penalty in LaLiga this season continued.
But the Rojiblancos didn’t take any of those chances, as is so often the case.
The first half Saturday wasn’t Atlético’s best 45 minutes this season, but it did look like one where Atleti had a game plan and were executing it well enough. All that was missing for much of the first half was the end product — and failure to take advantage meant that Getafe grew in confidence and grew into the game. Their bombardment of the Atlético goal shortly before the break reflected that and continued into the second period.
At 1-0 up in the second period, Diego Simeone was under pressure and made a call that backfired. When he withdrew Morata for Saúl Ñíguez, Atlético retreated deeper into their own half. It was inevitably the midfielder who would have an unfortunate penalty awarded against him and converted in the 83rd minute.
If Atlético are to compete, they need a coach brave enough not to sit back in this way, but more importantly they also need to take their chances. This game was there for the taking. The Colchoneros have underscored their xG by 4.02 this season in LaLiga, but it feels as though those missed chances have led to fragility in other areas. On this occasion, Atleti lost two points.
Rodrigo de Paul is Atlético’s best midfielder
Argentina fans may be wondering why this is something Atletico Madrid fans are only just learning, but de Paul is now arguably in his best form at club level since he moved back to Spain in 2021.
Many fans have still not forgiven de Paul for his behaviour in recent months, peaking with his request for leave for personal reasons only to show up at an awards ceremony with his pop-star girlfriend in Miami. But, on the field at least, he is showing all that he needs to if he is to win them over.
Against Getafe, de Paul bossed the midfield battle, particularly in the earlier stages when Atlético were dominating the game. He took 90 touches over the 90 minutes, and only Nahuel Molina (93) and Koke (97) had more. No player on either side had more touches in the opposing half than de Paul.
Koke looked strong and impressive compared to his recent form, but when looking for that edge of quality to give Atlético the lead, de Paul was one of few players to step up. The man who has returned from winning the World Cup is a very different figure to the one who played in the first half of the season, and he does seem to be more motivated and working harder for the team.
Saturday was not quite de Paul’s best game over the past month, but he does have something different to any other Atlético midfielder and Getafe struggled to get to grips with him, particularly early on.
Correa on the bench is more of a goal threat than Morata
Has there ever been a more Ángel Correa way to score a goal than while sat on the bench with his coat on?
On the hour, the Argentine reacted quickest to send the ball beyond David Soria after it rebounded his way in the box as everyone cleared after a corner. By the time the VAR check was complete, he’d already been replaced by Yannick Carrasco and was warming the bench.
This sequence speaks volumes about Correa and his role in this squad. The World Cup-winning forward is no longer the super sub that he was for such a prolonged period, and has instead become a real potent, consistent attacking threat. Saturday’s goal of the season, one more than João Félix, who is now at Chelsea.
First goal I can recall someone scoring while on the bench. Impressive from Ángel Correa. pic.twitter.com/Um3mUuGJG7— Ruairidh Barlow (@RuriBarlow) February 4, 2023
Despite that, Correa regularly seems to be the most likely to struggle for game time.
Griezmann is the first name on Simeone’s team sheet, perhaps with the exception of Jan Oblak, while Álvaro Morata is back in the team as its reference point up top. Correa again looked the more lively player in the final third in this game, especially compared to Morata. In the first half, one impressive turn left the Getafe defence turned inside out and created a superb chance that Morata couldn’t get on the end of.
And therein lies part of the problem, Álvaro Morata. The Spanish international continues to get himself into good positions, but his intelligence on the field deserts him far too often.
There is no better demonstration of that than the fact that Morata leads LaLiga with 18 offsides. Defences find it easy to step up and catch him out, and Djené did exactly that in the first half.
While defenders are aware of him, Morata is completely oblivious. It’s all that deprives him of being the number nine that Atlético desperately need, but it does deprive Atleti of just that. Whatever happens this summer, moving on Morata must be a priority.