Atlético Madrid 0 - 1 Villarreal: match report
Roberto Soriano scored late on at the Calderón to send Villarreal back to the Mediterranean coast with a fortuitous away victory, and avert what appeared destined to be a 0-0 draw.
La Liga’s two meanest defences met in Madrid on Tuesday evening. Atlético had kept six clean sheets in their previous eight matches, and the pre-match expectation was of an attritional battle between two well-organised units. Yet, the surprising thing about Roberto Soriano’s goal was not that it broke the deadlock, but that it took so long for someone to score in a match that entertained beyond expectation.
Atlético launched their first meaningful attack with 11 minutes on the clock, as a defensive slip-up allowed Correa to flash a shot towards the corner, which Andrés could only parry away to his right.
Villarreal did not learn from this sloppiness. On two further occasions, the visitors gifted possession to Atlético in the middle of the pitch, allowing red and white shirts to gallop forward. Griezmann was a constant menace, but he cut a frustrated figure as he failed to convert the half-chances that Villarreal presented him.
With the match passing the half-hour mark, the Frenchman had his finest opportunity of the match, after Koke’s delightfully-weighted chip bounced invitingly in to his patch. Griezmann bore down on Andrés goal, and unleashed a fierce half-volley in to the ‘keeper’s body. Atléti were dangerous throughout the first half, but never deadly.
In the stands, the Atléti support behind the goal that backs on to the Manzanares River sporadically held up displays to curate iconic moments in the history of the Estadio Vicente Calderón. With each game that passes at their current home, the nostalgia grows. Only two home league games remain at this fine cauldron of unscripted drama.
The game crept towards 60 minutes, and Atlético’s first-half dominance began to wane. The game opened out, with Rukavina booked for a foul on substitute Carrasco, as the Belgian surged forward with space ahead of him. Carrasco injured his shoulder as a result, and returned to the bench a disconsolate figure before heading straight to hospital.
Villarreal, pegged back for much of the first half, began to discover their adventurous spirit. On 78 minutes, Castillejo skipped free on the right flank, before cutting the ball back to Roberto Soriano on the edge of the box. The goal was inviting, Atléti’s defenders scrambling. The Italian’s shot was desperately blocked. But this was not an anomalous foray forward by The Yellow Submarine, rather a warning of what was to come.
Four minutes later, Cedric Bakambu, named as a substitute despite four goals in his last three matches, pinched the ball from a dithering Felipe Luis and broke in to his stride. He covered the ground quickly and, at the byline, cut the ball across the face of goal for Roberto Soriano to make amends for his previous chance, and turn the ball beyond Jan Oblak.
Diego Simeone stole down the tunnel on full time, brow furrowed. He received a taste of his own medicine at the Calderón, and it is not something he is accustomed to. Villarreal absorbed pressure. They lived dangerously but defended well. Then, they seized upon a momentary lapse of concentration. In the school of counter-attacking incisiveness, the apprentice defeated the master.