Saúl stunner earns a controversial win for Atlético

Rojiblancos ride their luck in Eindhoven but come away with three points

Saúl put in a man of the match display in midfield

Saúl put in a man of the match display in midfield

Atlético Madrid got their Champions League campaign off to a winning start on Tuesday night, Saúl Ñíguez scoring the only goal in a 1-0 triumph away to PSV Eindhoven.

The rojiblancos had Jan Oblak to thank, the Slovenian goalkeeper denying Andrés Guardado from the penalty spot just before half-time in a match that was littered with controversy.

PSV pushed Atleti right to the limit in last year’s round of 16 and proved to be difficult opponents once again, and just five minutes into the match were denied an opening goal by the officials.

Luuk de Jong didn’t play in the first leg between these two teams back in February, and saw his celebrations cut short by referee Martin Atkinson as teammated Héctor Moreno was adjudged to have jumped with an arm up on the defender.

The home crowd were incensed, even more so shortly after when Narsingh’s claim for a penalty was waved away following a push on the edge of the box from Godín.

Then on the stroke of half-time, Atleti took the lead in even more controversial circumstances – Saúl Ñíguez firing home when both Giménez and PSV midfielder Davy Pröpper were down on the floor injured after a clash of heads.

It was a wonderfully executed strike by the canterano, but he was a little fortunate to have had the chance given that the play should’ve been immediately stopped.

That wasn’t the end of the first half drama though, as Luciano Narsingh and the home side were finally given the penalty they had asked for earlier on after Gimenéz seemingly brought down the 26 year-old.

Replays suggested a dive from the Dutch attacker, and Atleti will feel that justice was done when Andrés Guardado failed to convert from the spot. The Mexican ran up comfortably, but was denied by a stunning save by Oblak.

Thankfully the second half was a little lower key, although the Slovenian did have to be on hand on a couple of occasions to claim crosses and save most notably from a Gastón Pereiro header.

At the other end, Kevin Gameiro had a golden chance to score his first goal from open play for his new club, but somehow skied the ball over the crossbar in time and space inside the box.

There was still time for another penalty shout, but PSV’s claims for a handball by Godín were waved away and Atleti just about managed to see the game out.

It wasn’t the most impressive showing from Simeone’s men, but he will be pleased to start the group stage with a win – especially with Bayern Munich to come in matchday two.

Next up, it’s back to La Liga action as Sporting Gijón visit the Calderón on Saturday afternoon.

Player ratings

Jan Oblak – 8

His calming presence is a huge factor when seeing out tough games such as this one. Excellent penalty save, his 3rd from 4 attempts (excluding shoot-outs) for Atleti.

Juanfran – 7

Got forward to good effect in the first half and provided some excellent crosses and stuck to his defensive task in the second. Much improved on his first two games of the season.

Josema Giménez – 7

Perhaps unlucky to give away a penalty, but recovered well and was our best defender in the second half. Him and Savic will give Cholo a real headache this season.

Diego Godín – 6

Very rare that his rating dips below a 7, but he had a difficult night up against De Jong and was lucky not to give away a penalty in the second half. Still won a lot of balls and lead us to a third clean sheet of the season.

Filipe Luís – 7

Just so consistent. Never makes a mistake defensively and always available for support in midfield and attack. Sent a few passes astray in the second half, but can’t fault him otherwise.

Gabi – 7

Has looked a little jaded so far this season after last year’s excursions, but screened the defence well and shut down the area down the middle for PSV to exploit. Will need to have his minutes managed this season.

Saúl – 8 (Man of the match)

Beautiful technique to score the winning goal, capping a superb performance in a deeper midfield role. Decision making is second to none, scary to think how good he can become.

Koke – 7

Like Saúl, he did a great job in midfield both on and off the ball. Key in transitions and helping the team relieve pressure.Looks very much at home in the 4-3-3 (sort of) formation.

Nico Gaitán – 7

Showed glimpses of his quality before coming off on the hour mark. Excellent first touch and vision. Once he’s fully adapted, you feel that he can become a big player for us.

Antoine Griezmann – 7

Not overly involved, but when he was he always did the right thing. His movement and first time passing is second to none, and showed signs of a developing partnership with Gameiro.

Kevin Gameiro – 6

Having done everything right, he missed another sitter at a vital time that could’ve made it 2-0. Still, can’t fault his endeavour and work-rate, just have to hope he gets it together soon.

Subs

Tiago – 6

The old head in midfield. Slotted in next to Gabi and basically did the same job, reading situations and clearing up danger. Great to have him back.

Yannick Carrasco – 5

Often comes on and revolutionises the match, but today wasn’t one of those days. Did little on the ball and was guilty of losing possession in dangerous areas a few times.

Fernando Torres – 5

Looked to link up when he came on, but to little effect. Sloppy on the ball, lacking the sharpness he had in the second half of last season.

Do you agree with our ratings? What did you make of the performance?


  • Alfred Rodriguez

    Waiting for Ahmad Hossainy’s post of how much he still thinks Saul is overrated lol. Aupa Atleti!

  • samer kozaylee

    Gameiro is Jackson Martinez brother !! He has missed alot of chances . In the other hand Torres looks very slow !
    We are banned from signing but we need a true number 9 who isn’t blind ! Today the referee was on our side so we have survived! I hope Correa will get more chances. Aupa Atleti !!

  • Paweł Kosiński

    Griezmann has scored 1 goal in his first 12 games. Let’s give Gameiro a little more time. His link-up play is very good and so is his positioning and speed. Just needs to understand precision while shooting is just as crucial as power. He’ll come good, trust me.

  • nandes

    It’s just four matches, no need to panic like this

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Never said he is overrated, I said he is not an attacking midfielder or a winger, and I also don’t think he is the next Raul Garcia, I don’t think he can score 17 goals this season, maybe next season, or the season after that, the kid keeps improving season after another .
    I also said that he needs to improve defensively since I think he should play as a central midfielder .

    I think I was one of the first people to mention how skillful Saul is, but look, is there something wrong about having a skillful CM ?! sometimes I feel that Simeone thinks that way, some other teams have CDs who are much better dribblers than some of our strikers, Pep just kicked Hart out because he is not good with his feet and replaced him with Bravo, who is also a better dribbler than some of our outfield players .
    What I’m saying is : Saul shouldn’t play upfront just because he scores 5 or 6 goals every season and shows some nice skills from time to time, look where is 105-million Pogba playing .

    The one that I don’t like is Carrasco, I did say he is an average player, until now, because he can become a great player, he got what it takes and I don’t know what is holding him back .
    And I didn’t use the term “overrated”, because I don’t think there is any body who is rating him high other than Atleti fans .
    Correa is much much better player than him .

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I’m the one who doesn’t like Carrasco and occasionally criticize Saul and I’m telling you that you are wrong about Gameiro, he is a great striker and he will score many goals, but only if Simeone wasn’t like you and had some patience .

  • Koke

    I don’t think we should be too worried about Gameiro yet, he seems to be doing all the right things so far except scoring. Yes, there’s a danger he could go down the path of Jackson Martinez, but I also think Jackson was unlucky/didn’t get enough time to prove his worth. Gameiro will likely do great things in our team. The only complaint I could possibly have about him isn’t really his fault – he’s too much like Griezmann. I think that if they keep playing together though they will form an awesome understanding though.

    I really like Saul, and yet I STILL have a problem even after watching all of his games for Atleti for 2 years of knowing which position would be his best one. I agree with Ahmad that we definitely have (or could buy) players that are much better than Saul in the attacking midfield role, but I don’t think Saul is overrated at all – I think Saul is an incredible young talent, one of the best in the world at his age. But… what the hell is his position? What are his skill sets? I want to call him a box to box midfielder. It was always my dream to see him filling Gabi’s role in a couple years, so that we could see a Koke-Oliver-Saul trio one day, but I can’t see Simeone ever playing him as a lone DM. Besides, if he plays at DM, his attacking qualities are wasted, but if he plays as an AM, our other attacking mids qualities are wasted (Carrasco, Gaitan, Oliver, Jota, Correa, etc).

    This was a poor game from Atleti. We still have yet to truly play well this season, and yes, I’m including the 4-0 hammering of Celta. I’m not complaining – I know it’s so early in the season. I’m just saying that the team hasn’t looked too convincing offensively or (surprisingly) defensively. Don’t get me wrong, I love luck – and every champion needs luck here and there. But it’s when you rely on luck for too many games that it comes back to bite you. When I say play well, I don’t mean we have to win games 6-0 or 7-0 like Barca or RMA. We just have to look CAPABLE of imposing our will on opponents.

    I really like Gaitan. I would love to see a Koke-Gabi-Gaitan midfield trio sometimes, but I doubt that will be happening anytime soon.

  • Koke

    What formation do you guys think would be our best in the long run? Yes, I know it’s still very very early and hard to know, but I would love to see something like this:

    Correa-Gameiro-Griezmann
    ———-Gaitan————–
    —–Koke——Gabi———-
    Filipe——————-Juanfran
    ——-Godin—Gimenez
    ————Oblak————-

    Saul and Carrasco are first options when need be. Mind you, this is only my dream, I think in Simeone’s eyes Correa is far away from a starting spot although I don’t see why, and I don’t think he would bench Saul ever while the kid is fit (or start such an attacking midfield.) However, I think that offensively, the lineup above is the one that could bang in goals left and right if they all find their top form.

  • Alfred Rodriguez

    I dream of a Correa and Griezmann up top pairing to start a game.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    We completed 537 passes tonight, but yet we had only 3 shots on target and we scored only one goal, from a corner .
    Something is obviously wrong .
    I’m not sure if Correa would have scored tonight had he played instead of Saul, but there is a good chance he would, he scores a goal every 159 minutes, second best goal per minute at our team after Grizi, who scores a goal every 137 minute .

    Saul scores a goal every 401 minute .
    Very poor number for an AM, but a great number for a CM, some people could say it’s not that simple, but I just see it that simple .

    And didn’t Saul start at the center ?! or was it Koke ?!
    I missed the first half hour, then I watched the rest of the game on a bad stream, I actually could live with Gabi-Saul in the center and Kike-Gaitan on the sides, despite that I believe Saul is more skillful than Koke, it’s not just about skills, runs and dribbles, then Carrasco would have won ballon d’Or .

  • Torres was horrible on the break, on the ball, and in link up.

  • I’m feeling a 4-2-3-1 for this team right now.

  • snᴉsɐlB

    indeed, just terrible.

  • AndersAT

    This season i think the starting lineup we had today is the right one. When we need to be more defensive I would put on Tiago or augusto for Saul (or Gaitan if we needed to defend home a lead against a pressing opposition).

    In time I think we would have I hard time holding on to griezman and he will be replaced by Correa. And I think Saul, Koke and Oliver (if he succeeds at Porto) should take the midfield. Perhaps Oliver along with Saul and Koke needs a bit more defensive skills before this can succeed.

  • AndersAT

    I think he looks way more dangerous than Jackson. He creates more chances for him self and for others. But Jackson was ridiculously bad.

    But Gameiro really needs to adjust his sights soon.

  • Nuncadejesdecreer

    Excellent away performance against a good team. If you ignore the incompetence of the referee(went both ways) we were clearly the better team. We dominated the first 60 mins in my opinion, and with better finishing would’ve won by 2 or 3.

    Lost to be positive about, a better performance then we managed when we played them here last season, the team playing attacking football from the start, only sitting back when we were ahead(which is the right thing to do in Europe).
    Gameiro was pretty good just needs to score a couple of goals and he’ll gain in confidence. I believe in him.
    Oblak!!!! Looks like he’s been practising penalties in the summer which is fantastic, it’s his only big weakness. That was the only thing that cost us the CL last season, people tend to forget that. Our situation is not so bad! Aupa Atleti!!!

  • Nuncadejesdecreer

    Jesus, you find the negatives in EVERYTHING..

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    No, I don’t .
    And it’s not just me who is criticizing some of Simeone’s decisions, many other people do the same, @Koke just said above that our 4-0 against Celta was a poor game, but you said nothing to him .
    Don’t make this about me, I’m really sick of that .
    I never said Saul is overrated, and I don’t see the negative in everything, on the contrary, I see positives that very few people see, I stood by Raul before 2013/14 season started when many people wanted to sell him, I did the same with Torres during his long goal drought last season, and I probably was the only one who didn’t think that Gabi made a bad season in 2014/15 .
    Does that sound like a negative person ?!!!

    I have my original opinions, and I’m not afraid to say them outloud, even if I knew for sure that nobody will like them, if you have yours then let’s hear them, if not then leave me alone .

  • Nuncadejesdecreer

    Didn’t mean to single you out individually, didn’t notice any other negative comments about yesterdays game, that’s why i only replied to you. I have no problem with people having their own opinions, football wouldn’t be very interesting otherwise.

    The reason I reacted was because I thought yesterday was a good performance, against a strong side, and only poor finishing meant that we didn’t score a couple more goals. I just find it incredible how people can continually criticise Cholo when he is doing an unbelieavable job. We are in the middle of our golden period, it’s not gonna last forever, enjoy it!

  • Koke

    What I like about Saul is that he is everywhere, usually in the midfield but you also see him breaking up attacks near our own box as well as running into the opponent’s box to score goals. I don’t mind a midfield trio of Koke-Saul-Gabi (as long as Augusto and Tiago are nowhere near the starting lineup, unless of course to replace Gabi or in a massive game). Yes, Koke-Saul-Gabi is still not as attacking as many midfields for most of the world’s best sides, but that’s okay, they work well together and transitions are gradual.

    Then the question is, who partners Griezmann and Gameiro “up top”? I really like what I’ve been seeing from Gaitan so far, he seems to be a player great for unlocking defenses. Maybe we see Carrasco in games when we need a quick counterattack, and Gaitan in games that we dominate? Just spit balling.

  • Kris

    ideal line-up right there for Atletico atm. Gaitan-gameiro-griezmann up top. koke-gabi-saul in midfield, and then the defense as per usual with Savic and Gimenez rotating. Also would like for Juanfran to be rotated, he hasn’t looked the best recently and Vrsaljko might bring something different to the team. I really don’t care who plays as long as they earned it by merit. If somebody’s going through a bad spell, they should be benched for a better option.

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    I didn’t think yesterday’s performance was good tho, There were some positives but as a whole i thought things could have been much better, I just chose not to say anything because as I’ve learned in the past, the win helps cloud our bad performances at times

  • starvs

    Gaitan was really good. With him I feel like our passing was way different/better than it has been in years. Much more one touch passing and movement in the middle. It didn’t really amount to much in the ~60 minutes he played, but it certainly added another dimension we haven’t seen. And then Carrasco came on and all of that stopped. I think it might become clear that Gaitan needs to play every minute of every game, which is never a good position (over reliance on one player) to be in.

    Torres is also quite clearly bad and I doubt he will ever re-re-recover his form at this point. So we really do need Gameiro to come good. This team (with Gaitan fully integrated) may just be one piece away from truly being the full package, hopefully Kevin can get there.

    But if nothing else, Cholo started only 3 CMs away from home in an important European game, that is progress…

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    You didn’t answer my question, nobody did, did Saul start in the center and Koke & Gaitan on the bands ?!
    I had some problems watching the game as I said, but some websites like soccerway and whoscored put it that way .
    Again, I’m fine with that, a 4-4-2 with Koke & Arda on the bands was great, it won us La Liga, and Gaitan could be the replacement of Arda we have been looking for .
    And I think playing in the center next to Gabi will be perfect for Saul, who can have some attacking freedom in some games, in many games actually, and in other few games (vs Barca, Bayern, RM & Man City) he could be replaced by Augusto, or both can play and keep Gaitan on the bench .

    A 4-3-3 with those same players isn’t bad either, as I said before, it’s not just about formation, but also about the selection of players, and as long we don’t have Tiago or Augusto at the same time with Gabi-Saul-Koke, and Gaitan is the one who is replacing Tiago/Augusto, not Carrasco then I’m happy with either formation, then with games passing we can decide which formation is best .

    Correa is also much better than Carrasco in counter attacking, in my opinion .

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    This is a great era for Atleti, but it’s not our golden era, that would be the 70s when we won 3 Liga titles, 2 Copas, reached the European Cup final and won the intercontinental .

    We had too many joys with Simeone, and I enjoyed every bit of them, but I couldn’t enjoy games like the two against Gijon last season, the away game against Astana, the away game against Deportivo, and I definitely couldn’t enjoy the Alaves & Leganes games .

    “it’s not gonna last forever” .. who is the negative now ?!!

    The true Atleti is back, and the 2000 disaster and the lost decade after it will not happen again .

  • Koke

    I love Correa and I think it’s a crime that he doesn’t get way way more minutes, but I think Carrasco is a dream player to have on the counterattack. The man is practically a one man counterattack at times.

    Remember when we were losing 2-1 to Barca last season in the league after having Filipe (and later Godin) sent off? In that game that we were playing 11 vs 10 or 9, Carrasco was often our only attacking threat whatsoever, the only man capable of taking the ball up the entire pitch by himself (which he did do that game, by the way, literally.) He also set up a perfect chance for Griezmann to score and tie the game, which Griezmann messed up sadly. Memories like that, along with the one against Real Madrid in the CL final when he was about to dribble the whole field before Ramos made that awful red card slide tackle from behind, and his goal against Valencia last year, these are reasons why I will continue to rate Carrasco highly and believe in his potential. Yes, he’s very often guilty of over dribbling or getting himself into trouble, yes, he might not score or assist as much as we want him to (but who the heck in our squad does, besides Griezmann??) and yes, he still has room to grow, but I have to say, the kid can be a special player if he keeps refining his talents and working on his shortcomings.

    That being said – it’s a crime that Correa doesn’t play more often. This kid is something special too, even more talented than Carrasco in my opinion, but even more unrefined. I don’t understand Simeone’s selections sometimes. The fact that Griezmann, Oblak, Gimenez, Saul, and Lucas all wasted away on the bench for long periods until “lucky” injuries/opportunities came their way is astonishing. How many other potential superstars do we have rotting on the bench because the manager won’t experiment?

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    One correction… When Tiago came on is when all of that passing stopped

  • XFan

    …. fortunate to score because the game should have stopped immediately ? For What ? Somebody fell down when they butted heads in a 50-50 aerial challenge ??
    Football is a contact sport. You have to be fit physically to compete and fight the opponents for the objective within the rules. The referee was correct, there was no controversy and a well earned Victory for the team.

    *** Gameiro just need his ‘first’ goal. Then we would be blazing on with the 3Gs of Gameiro, Griezmann and Gaitan and unquestionably God.

  • Alfred Rodriguez

    I think if you look at the stats and read 3 shots on target you automatically assume it was a horrible offensive night. But there was at least 2 clear chances for Gameiro where he shot off target where as an in form striker would put away. And I know you have faith in Gameiro because you said, “[Gameiro] is a great striker and he will score many goals.” In this game it wasn’t our ineffectiveness to break through it was our ineffectiveness to put away the goals that should have been put away. If you go back to the first 3 games of the season there have been many opportunities that did not go in that should have. So either Atleti wait around for Gameiro to come around or you bench him. Against a team that attacks us, I don’t see much issue with our tactics.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    I agree. No one knew there was n injury until after the goal. Plus there are plenty of times with players dive and act hurt to stop the flow of the game. Glad the refs made the right decision and let the game go. As for PSV having a goal taken away, which it was, the penalty call was completely bogus because Gimenez never touched the PSV player during his slide tackle.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    I agree, Correa is Griezmann’s replacement. I just hope he is patient enough to wait and not leave.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    Me too. Correa has earned the start.

  • Usavicente Calderon

    Until Gameiro stops missing available goals, he will get no love. He was bought to be a poacher and he has not fulfilled his obligation. I do like him. I like his attitude. When he missed against PSV he screamed and yelled at himself. I was happy to see that. Right now though, Correa and Griezmann should be the front two.

  • Hannu

    I hope we try Correa and Griezmann upfront. It might be deadly.:)