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.
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.
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?