A typically attritional display from Atletico Madrid saw them avoid a potential banana skin and come away from Eibar with a comfortable 2-0 victory on Saturday.
In a turgid encounter on a wet, windy afternoon in the Basque Country, a moment of quality from Saul Niguez and a first La Liga goal in 10 games for Antoine Griezmann were enough to seal the points for Los Rojiblancos, who appear to be reaping the benefits of the winter break.
Atleti showed none of the lethargy that had plagued their displays pre-Christmas. Los Colchoneros made light work of going from the sweltering Canary Islands to the freezing cold of northern Spain just four days later to come away with two wins from two since the turn of the year. However, the biggest positive was seeing Griezmann’s name on the scoresheet in the league for the first time since Oct. 2.
Sime Vrsaljko struggled at right-back without protection in front of him and had to be hooked at the break.
It is not just the team that look fresher after the break. Diego Simeone raised a couple of eyebrows with his initial team selection, and while the choice to play Vrsaljko did not work out, Jose Gimenez’s presence in midfield gave the side more steel. Bringing on Kevin Gameiro sealed the win, too.
GK Miguel Moya, 6 — Despite all of Eibar’s huffing and puffing, he did not have to make any saves of note. Dealt with what he had to comfortably.
DF Sime Vrsaljko, 4 — Was clearly targeted and endured a difficult afternoon with Takashi Inui tearing him to shreds at times. Picked up a booking in the first 20 minutes and was lucky not to concede a penalty as he appeared to handle. Hooked at the break.
DF Stefan Savic, 7 — A couple of nervy moments, but in general was solid. Won a couple of big headers toward the end of the first half as Eibar pushed forwards.
DF Diego Godin, 7 — Like his partner, there were a couple of wobbles as the home side looked to put pressure on the defence. However, he held firm and helped ensure another clean sheet.
DF Filipe Luis, 7 — With Vrsaljko targeted, Filipe did not have that much work in defence. Did what he needed to in that respect and was always a willing runner going forwards. Whipped in a beauty of a cross for Saul’s goal.
MF Saul, 8 — A surprising choice to start on the right-hand side of midfield, but the 22-year-old more than justified Simeone’s faith. His deft header broke the deadlock, and he tested the keeper twice shortly afterwards.
MF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 — A centre-back by trade, the Uruguayan is never going to pull up trees on the ball but is tenacious, athletic and used his physicality well. Slotted in as a third centre-back at times as Eibar looked to go route one.
MF Gabi, 6 — Always seems to have time on the ball in these types of games despite their hectic nature. Understandably, the understanding with Gimenez needs work.
MF Koke, 6 — Shunted back out to the left and unable to influence the game as he might have liked. However, he was involved in the build up for the opener and the side appeared more solid.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 8 — Looks rejuvenated after the winter break. Continued his good form from the Copa and showed brilliant energy to win the ball back and play a neat one two with Gameiro to seal the points.
FW Fernando Torres, 5 — Has not played a lot of late, and it showed. While his work ethic can never be in doubt, El Nino struggled to get involved and could not hold the ball up at all. Replaced with just under 20 to go, and boy did it pay off.
Juanfran (for Vrsaljko), 7 — Mr. Reliable did not suffer anywhere near as much as the man he replaced, and the side looked better for him in it.
Kevin Gamerio (for Torres), N/R — Does not get a rating because he came on after 70 minutes, but his impact was instantaneous as he showed great composure to tee up Griezmann to seal the win.
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