Atlético Madrid were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Espanyol on Saturday, missing the chance to make up ground at the top of La Liga after the teams around them dropped points.
The rojiblancos struggled to break down Quique Sánchez Flores’ side, and had goalkeeper Jan Oblak to thank for a string of fine saves to deny the visitors on the break.
After a moment’s applause for the victims of the Chapecoense air crash ahead of kick-off, the Atleti fans were quick to show their appreciation to Quique for his time at the club and the two trophies he won.
However, the Espanyol boss was in no mood to return the kind gesture, and set up his team to frustrate the red and whites. That they did, with the referee and slippery conditions making for a frustrating night.
The home side dominated possession and were playing some nice stuff in the early stages, albeit without any real chances to show for it.
Griezmann called for a penalty after seeing a shot blocked by Javi Fuego’s elbow, and Gabi saw a long range drive easily caught by Diego López, but that was about as good as it got for the home side.
Just before half-time, Gerard Moreno found himself clear on goal after a nice move involving Piatti and Baptistão, but he was denied by a brilliant save from the onrushing Jan Oblak.
Atleti stepped up the intensity after the break but still, Espanyol were causing danger on the break whilst remaining solid and responsible at the back.
Oblak had to be on guard again to save another 1-on-1, this time from Baptistão who really should’ve found the net against his former side. Thankfully the Slovenian had other ideas.
Gabi then forced Diego López into a smart stop with a volleyed attempt, before Griezmann sent the follow up across the face of goal, inches between the back of the net and Gameiro inside the six yard box.
It’s been two months now since Griezmann last found the net in La Liga, but he really should’ve won the game late on when substitute Gaitán presented him with a golden opportunity.
The Frenchman had a clear sight of goal from around 10 yards out after a cut-back wasn’t cleared, but shot straight at López and without power which gave him the chance to save. Either side though and it would’ve been 1-0.
López made an even better intervention shortly after again from Griezmann to tip his right footed effort onto the crossbar, but it wouldn’t have counted after a foul in the middle from Godín.
Time soon ran out for Atleti, and despite a few nice pieces of play from Correa, Espanyol dealt with everything that was thrown at them fairly comfortably and saw out the result.
After Sevilla’s loss and the draw in El Clásico earlier in the day, this was a match that Atleti really needed to win to kick start their (very feint) title aspirations, but they failed to do so.
In truth, we didn’t deserve the win and if anything, Quique will be coming away from his return from the Calderón feeling that he could’ve taken all three points.
Opposite number Diego Simeone will have a lot to think about as our La Liga form continues to stumble, with a tough trip to Villarreal to come after the dead rubber against Bayern in midweek.
Jan Oblak – 8 (Man of the match)
His two crucial stops were the reason Atleti didn’t lose tonight. Still managing to excel, even if the defence in front of him is probably weaker than it ever has been
Juanfran – 6
Got into the forward positions a lot, but didn’t really do anything once he go there. Vrsaljko must feel a little frustrated to have been left out the squad completely given his midweek goal and performance.
Diego Godín – 6
Have to admire his efforts to try and lead the team to victory, but he seems less concentrated in defence than usual. Often guilty of going wondering and leaving big gaps behind him to be exploited.
Josema Giménez – 6
Very enthusiastic and passionate, but still rash and indecisive at times. Would like to see Cholo mix it up in defence a little more, Savic has performed well and Lucas deserves a run in the team.
Filipe Luís – 6
Has been injured, and at times it showed as he looked a little off the pace. Still probably our best player on the ball, but lost possession more times than usual and wasn’t linking up as well as he usually does.
Gabi – 6
Can’t fault him given that he is not the man tasked of being our creative force. Came closer than anyone with a volleyed attempt that López saved, and was probably the only player to actually put a few decent balls into the box.
Tiago – 6
Like Gabi, he did his job but perhaps this was the type of game where 4-3-3 would’ve been more effective than 4-4-2. Showed class as always, before being sacrificed in the second half.
Koke – 5
Visibly frustrated with his lack of involvement and the team’s shortcomings in attack. Worked hard, but was unable to impose himself and make the quick incisive passes he usually does.
Yannick Carrasco – 6
Have to wonder why he’s often the man to get the hook when we’re looking for a goal, as he’s our top scorer and by far our most dangerous attacking player. Saying that, it wasn’t really his night and Espanyol dealt with him well.
Antoine Griezmann – 5
On probably his biggest drop in form since joining Atleti. Hardly linked up with Gameiro all night, had no space to run in behind, and seemed weak on the ball when he got it. Not the sharp, confident Griezmann we’ve gotten used to.
Kevin Gameiro – 6
His pace is useful and he does a good job holding up the ball and running the channels, but when we need a man inside the box to feed balls into, he’s not the man. Too similar to Griezmann, both were made more or less redundant tonight.
Nico Gaitán – 6
Feel for Gaitán at the moment. Doesn’t play much, and when he does it’s often in difficult situations where we need a goal. Did fashion the best chance of the match for Griezmann, but still clearly hasn’t found his feet at Atleti yet.
Ángel Correa – 6
Provided something different and had a couple of bright moments to almost unlock the Espanyol defence, but needs to work on his end product and decision making.
Saúl Ñíguez – N/A
Do you agree with our ratings? What did you make of the performance?