In what was one of Atlético’s poorest performances of the season, the Rojiblancos showed true grit by grinding out a victory against Granada.
For most of the game the Andalusians were the better side, but Arda Turan’s goal after an hour of play decided the match in Atleti’s favour.
Atleti weren’t themselves in the first half and it was Granada who showed the aggression, spirit and focus that usually distinguishes Simeone’s men. The home side nearly profited from mistakes by Juanfran and Miranda, but Siquiera and later Brahimi were unable to capitalise on the errors.
Granada’s offensive quartet of Dani Benítez, Brahimi, Torje and top scorer El-Arabi pressured well, and the latter headed just wide from a free kick in the 10th minute.
Atlético’s midfield was hardly involved, although Raúl García did put goalkeeper Toño to the test with a low drive. A few minutes later the ‘keeper again was called to action when Diego Godín nearly scored a header.
But besides two shots from long range by Mario and Falcao, it was all about Granada in the first half. Thibaut Courtois saved his team when he denied El-Arabi from close range.
The Colchoneros again evaded danger when Torje hit the woodwork. After clearing a corner kick, El Graná broke out quickly and if it hadn’t been for Arda Turan’s deflection, then the Romanian’s shot would have been successful instead of smashing against the post.
Possibly the most curious moment of the game came at the start of the second half, when fresh sub Diego Costa went back into the dressing room to look for his jersey, meanwhile leaving his team-mates a man down at the start of the half.
The Brazilian would soon be forgiven though, because he played a big role in Atlético’s goal in the 61st minute. Costa passed the ball back to another substitute, Koke, who delivered a fine cross at the second post for Arda to slide in.
Atleti immediately followed up the goal with another big chance, but Radamel Falcao hit the side netting. At the other end Dani Benítez wasted a good opportunity after failing to control the ball, giving Thibaut Courtois the opportunity to intervene.
The undeserved goal clearly upset Granada, as the solid defence suddenly started to reveal cracks. Shortly after going ahead Atleti created big opportunities for Diego Costa and Radamel Falcao, but both strikers were unfortunate in their finishing. The Colombian has now failed to score since the attempt on his life by Roberto Soldado in Valencia, and on Sunday night seemed to have lost his killer instinct. Perhaps telling of his form, he missed a sitter in the added time after Filipe Luis had delivered the ball on a platter.
Before that Koke had also missed a big opportunity to double our lead, which could have been costly considering that Atleti played with 10 men since the 71st minute when Mario Suárez received his marching orders for picking up his second booking.
But besides a header by Orellana which just missed the goal, Atleti managed to hang on – perhaps defending stronger and more focussed with 10 than with 11. The victory was hard-fought and perhaps undeserved, but our 10th win in 12 games assures us that we’re going into the derby at least two points ahead of Real Madrid, no matter the result of next week’s heated clash with Sevilla.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Godín, Miranda, Filipe; Mario, Gabi, Arda (“73 Tiago), Raúl García (“59 Koke); Adrián (“46 Diego Costa) and Falcao.
Goals: 0-1 Arda (“61)