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Simeone: Correa winner was “street football”

The coach discussed Atlético’s fourth consecutive win.

Atletico de Madrid v Real Betis - LaLiga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid picked up another win on Sunday, returning from the international break to defeat Real Betis in a hard-fought fixture at the Cívitas Metropolitano. The game’s only goal came in the 86th minute, when substitute Ángel Correa produced a sensational individual effort to win all three points for the Rojiblancos — who took a huge step toward securing an 11th consecutive top-four finish in LaLiga.

Atletico de Madrid v Real Betis - LaLiga Santander Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

Correa picked up an Antoine Griezmann pass and evaded the challenge of central defender Germán Pezzella before the ball glanced off right-back Aitor Ruibal. But Ruibal couldn’t secure possession or make a clearance, and Correa won the ball back. He then carried it into the penalty area, cutting twice to his right to skip past the challenges of defenders Luiz Felipe and Juan Miranda, and wrong-footed the goalkeeper Rui Silva.

“We’ve seen him score this goal many times. It’s street football, it’s futsal, football that resolves moments where there are no spaces,” Diego Simeone told broadcaster DAZN postgame. “It’s true that he took the ball on the deflection (off Aitor Ruibal), but he looks for the ball to make that happen. And he ends up solving that situation with enormous quality.

“What else can we say about Correa? He always plays, whether it’s 20 minutes, 30, 40 ... He is one of the players with the most minutes in the squad, and that speaks for itself in terms of the importance that I place, above all, on how he plays within a team.”

“We know the quality of the players in the team, and if you don’t start the game, you have to be prepared in the second half to go out and help the team,” Correa told DAZN.

Atletico de Madrid v Real Betis - LaLiga Santander Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Correa’s goal, his first in two months, secured Atlético’s fifth 1-0 victory since Jan. 29 — a nine-game stretch. Atleti’s 11-game unbeaten run in LaLiga is the team’s longest in over two years — and a stable, healthy central defense trio of José Giménez, Stefan Savić, and Mario Hermoso is largely responsible for this Rojiblanco resurgence.

“Mario went through difficulties, hard times. He was out of the squad, he didn’t play, he spent several games in a row without playing. And now he’s having an extraordinary moment,” Simeone said. “He has to take care of himself, nobody is going to give him anything. He knows that I am the one who is going to give him the least.

“It makes me happy when a player rebels, when they show their desire, when they say ‘I’m a good player and I’m going to show you that I play well.’ And that’s what we need as coaches.”

Sunday night was also a memorable night for Jan Oblak. Although the longtime Colchonero had only two routine saves to make, he equalled former teammate Diego Godín’s club record 389 appearances for a foreign-born player. He is set to break the record next weekend, when Atlético visit Rayo Vallecano in a mini-derby.

“The truth is that I didn’t expect to be the foreigner with the most games when I arrived, I didn’t think about that,” Oblak told DAZN. “Years, years, and years have passed, and I’m still here. All this time I’ve been happy, and I’ve done everything possible to help the club.

“The fans and everyone else have helped me a lot, with the love they’ve given me. Nine years have passed, but I’m happy to be able to match Godín’s record.”