Having not won or even scored in the last three matches, Atlético Madrid needed a win against Las Palmas this afternoon to avoid entering a full-blown crisis ahead of the Christmas break.
It wasn’t pretty, but a second half goal from Saúl Ñíguez earned the rojiblancos a 1-0 win, the midfielder firing home just past the hour mark to ensure all three points against a strong side.
The visitors have earned a lot praise of praise this season for their expansive brand of football, combining possession football with counter attack under the guise of former Atlético player Quique Setién.
Much of the match followed a general pattern, with Las Palmas having most of the ball but Atleti having most of the chances, even though the Canary side were guilty of missing some of their own in the second half.
Goalscorer Saúl very nearly broke the deadlock in the first half when his acrobatic shot cannoned back off the inside of the post, before Griezmann’s follow up flashed just wide of goal.
Las Palmas also hit the woodwork themselves through Uruguayan central defender Mauricio Lemos, but his 40 yard thunderbolt grazed the top of the crossbar with Moyá beaten in the Atleti goal.
At the other end, Kevin Gameiro also had a number of chances that he couldn’t convert, and Griezmann missed the target with a right-footed effort after Koke played in him in over the talk.
Both ran hard in attack and fought for every ball, but haven’t had the luck in front of goal that their efforts deserve. Griezmann is now on a run of 769 minutes in La Liga without a goal, his longest barren spell for the club.
Chances were aplenty as both teams looked for the breakthrough, and just after half-time Jonathan Viera was presented with a good chance as Las Palmas carved through the home defence. Thankfully, Moyá was on hand to make an important save.
Shortly after, the goal finally came for Atleti and Saúl, who has come under some scrutiny this season for not matching the heights of last year.
After Griezmann’s shot was blocked, the canterano picked it up and and lashed it past Javi Varas from outside the box. A goal worthy of winning any match, but it may not have done so had Las Palmas taken their chances.
Míchel came the closest, firing narrowly over the crossbar after finding space at the back post. Momo also had a shot saved by Moyá, who did very well in Oblak’s absence and helped Atleti see out the win.
Given the nature of some of our recent results, this was a game that we could’ve easily dropped points in so it was pleasing to see the team dig in and grind out the win.
There are still problems, but there were positives in the performances of Vrsaljko and Moyá, and the three points provide a good base to work with, especially as we don’t play in La Liga now until January 7th.
Next up is the return leg of our Copa del Rey match against Guijuelo at the Calderón on Tuesday night, before a short Christmas break and new year trip to Saudi Arabia to contend with.
Miguel Ángel Moyá – 7
A little nervy to start with, but grew into the game and made some important saves and interventions in the second half. He may not be Oblak, but he proved today that he can fill in with minimal fuss and do a good job.
Sime Vrsaljko – 7
Given the nod in favour of Juanfran, and took his chance with an assured performance. Like Moyá, he looked more confident as the game went on, showing confidence on the ball and putting some good crosses into the box.
Diego Godín – 6
Hasn’t been at his imperial best this season, and was a little rash at times today with some miscued clearances and poor decisions. Still, stood strong in the latter stages to help make sure of the clean sheet.
Stefan Savic – 7
After some poor recent matches, he played well today and dealt well with Las Palmas’ quick movement up front. Made a number of good blocks and tackles, and distributed the ball well when he had the chances.
Lucas Hernández – 6
One of our most impressive players lately, although didn’t have much of an impact in an attacking sense today. Still, defensively he is very strong and he didn’t put a foot wrong at the back today.
Gabi – 7
Some have called for his removal from the line-up, but he was back to his best level today with a commanding display. Atleti may not have had much of the ball, but made sure Las Palmas had little joy down the middle and this was thanks mainly to Gabi.
Koke – 6
In and out of the game in terms of contribution. Did make some good passes including one to put Griezmann through on the first half, and as always used the ball well. Still not sure about him at CM, but we have little choice at the moment.
Saúl Ñíguez – 7 (Man of the match)
Possibly his best performance of the season. Not only did he score an excellent winning goal, but he was involved throughout, worked hard and showed his class in both and attacking and defending sense.
Yannick Carrasco – 5
Not the all-action Carrasco that we have gotten used to seeing. He worked hard, but Las Palmas doubled up on him a lot of the time and thus he had little joy, before Cholo withdrew him in the second half.
Antoine Griezmann – 6
Still no league goal, but his attitude and aptitude was better today than it has been in recent matches. Worked very hard, played closer to the last defender and tried to make things happen. The goal will come soon.
Kevin Gameiro – 6
Very similar to his compatriot in attack. Had a few chances that he should’ve done better with, but he ran the channels well and caused problems with his pace. Movement very good as well.
Fernando Torres – 5
Held up the ball well on a few occasions, but didn’t have a great deal of involvement in his short cameo. Hard to judge him at the moment as he’s played very little recently due to injury.
Nico Gaitán – 6
May have only played 10 minutes or so, but looked keen to make an impact and prove his worth. Did well on the ball and was up and down the left flank. Will get chances in the Copa over the coming month or so.
Thomas Partey – N/A
Do you agree with our ratings? What did you make of the performance?