Atlético Madrid made it 5 from 5 in the Champions League on Tuesday night, winning Group D with a 2-0 win over PSV Eindhoven after Bayern Munich were beaten in Rostov earlier in the day.
Second half goals from French duo Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann ensured the three points, lifting spirits in the Vicente Calderón after Saturday’s derby disappointment.
Diego Simeone had a lot of questions to answer after the weekend’s 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Real Madrid, and opted to revert back to 4-4-2 with Tiago coming in and Koke moving wide.
However, it took a while for his team to get going, and knowing before kick-off that they only needed a point to top the group after Bayern’s loss perhaps led to a subdued first half.
PSV also knew that the result would have little impact on their case for third place and a spot in the Europa League, given that they will now have to beat Rostov on the final matchday.
There were still chances though, Kevin Gameiro guilty of squandering a sitter early on when he somehow managed to side-foot the ball wide after a great cross from Carrasco.
Gastón Pereiro also capitalised on a slip to go clean through on goal at the other end, but shot straight at Oblak under pressure from Antoine Griezmann, who had ran back from his striker position to try prevent the goal.
Griezmann was to be rewarded for his hard work and it was he who set up the opening goal, although not after compatriot Gameiro went close again either side of half time.
First, the former Sevilla man was denied a clear chance by a last ditch challenge from Jetro Willems, before just failing to get on the end of a Giménez header at the back post just after the break.
He got the goal he so craved shortly after though, picking up an incisive pass from Griezmann and finishing in style, lashing the ball past PSV ‘keeper Zoet in emphatic fashion to break the deadlock.
It was Gameiro’s first goal for Atlético in the Champions League, and should relieve some pressure after a series of misses both tonight in some of our previous matches.
Just over 10 minutes later, Griezmann added the second with a cool finish of his own, slotting past Zoet after great work from Tiago in midfield to intercept a loose ball and play it in to him.
The Portuguese’s influence had a real impact on Atleti particularly on the second half, his cool head giving Koke less defensive responsibility and easing the burden on Gabi, whilst making the team look a more solid unit overall.
PSV didn’t push too hard for a route back into the game, and the hosts were able to see out the final stages with the authority and solidity that we haven’t really seen since last season.
Gameiro did have one last chance to add to his tally before the final whistle, but headed Koke’s corner onto the crossbar via a deflection.
All in all, not the most eventful of games but the Calderón will go home happy, and so will Simeone. His team were professional and did what they needed to do in order to win the group.
We can now turn focus back to La Liga for the next few months, with the trip to Bayern Munich in matchday 6 now a dead rubber given our six-point advantage over the Germans.
Jan Oblak – 7
Will be delighted to claim his first clean sheet in over a month. Didn’t have to make any spectacular saves, but was assured throughout and was well positioned to stop Pereiro 1-on-1 in the first half.
Sime Vrsaljko – 6
Not as involved as he was against Rostov, but didn’t do his chances any harm. Put in a few good balls, but wasn’t really tested defensively. May get a run at left-back if Filipe is indeed injured after hobbling off.
Diego Godín – 7
Should’ve done better with a header in the first half, although but for the slip that let Pereiro run through, he stood strong throughout and helped us see out the win in the closing stages.
José María Giménez – 7
Nice to see him back in the team. Savic has struggled in recent weeks, and his performances may give Cholo a decision to make before Osasuna on Sunday. No rash challenges or decisions, which is always a bonus.
Filipe Luís – 6
We were hoping he would pick up a yellow card tonight so that he could serve a suspension at Bayern, but instead he hobbled off injured with what looked to be a hamstring. Lets hope it’s nothing serious.
Gabi – 6
Did his usual job in the middle of the park, and will have been glad to see Tiago back alongside him given his recent frustrations. Passed the ball well and made sure PSV had no space to exploit through the middle.
Tiago – 8 (Man of the match)
Just his second start of the season, which is hard to believe given how good he was. Of course, at 35 and on the back of a horrific leg break he can’t play every week, but on tonight’s evidence he could be just what we have been lacking in recent weeks. Class act, great assist too.
Koke – 7
Saw a lot of the ball and looked assured (even found a teammate from corners on a few occasions). Didn’t do a huge deal wrong in midfield, but it’s clear that the system works better when he is in the interior role.
Yannick Carrasco – 7
Lots of endeavour and enterprise, albeit without too much to show for it. Had a couple of good runs in the first half and was the driving force in attack as usual, but didn’t pack his shooting boots tonight.
Antoine Griezmann – 7
Goal and assist tonight, which is good to see given his foot injury and quiet recent form (Rostov aside). In and out of the game, but can always be counted upon to make the difference when the chances come.
Kevin Gameiro – 7
Although he missed some chances, he never shied away and was rewarded with a very well taken goal. Worked hard and caused problems, can’t help feel that the assurance of being an undisputed starter would help his confidence.
Juanfran – N/A
Saúl Ñíguez – N/A
Do you agree with our ratings? What did you make of the performance?