It wasn’t the most memorable of matches, but Atlético Madrid made it three wins from three in La Liga on Saturday night with a 1-0 win over Real Betis at the Vicente Calderón.
Nico Gaitán’s early goal separated the two teams on a frosty night in the Spanish capital, but it was a poor game with chances few and far between and actual football almost non-existent.
Having claimed an assist for Griezmann’s opener against Las Palmas in midweek, Gaitán earned a place in Simeone’s line-up and soon vindicated his manager’s choice with his 4th goal of the season.
Vrsaljko, preferred once more to Juanfran at right-back, was involved, his cross deflecting to Gaitán who reacted quickly to finish at the back post and give Atleti the lead on eight minutes.
The Argentine hasn’t accustomed to life in La Liga as well as many would’ve hoped, but was visibly boosted by the goal and was probably the red and whites’ best performer on the night.
Fernando Torres was also given a start despite Ángel Correa’s impressive showing in midweek, but he didn’t have his best of matches, albeit with service short in supply as both sides struggled to carve out any real openings.
Betis and namely top scorer Ruben Castro did have one or two half chances, but Miguel Ángel Moyá was alert throughout the match to deny him and his teammates in what was his 50th match for Atlético.
Little changed in the second half, although the introduction of Yannick Carrasco at least gave Cholo‘s men something of an outball on the left as they seemingly just looked to play out time.
The Belgian came the closest to finding a goal in the 82 minutes after Gaitán did find the net, but after taking Griezmann’s pass into his stride and cutting inside, shot straight at Antonio Adán.
As time went on, Atleti looked less and less willing to try and add to their lead, resorting to time-wasting and defensive tactics to ensure there would be no repeat of the two late goals conceded to Las Palmas on Tuesday night.
In a way, it was re-assuring to see the team show their defensive strengths and grind out the result, but after going ahead so early, the remainder of the match turned out to be a real anti-climax.
However, it’s another three points on the board and puts us to withing two points of Sevilla, who host Real Madrid tomorrow. It’s also another clean sheet, which will please Simeone.
In the midst of a busy run we can’t expect a high level of performance in every match, but hopefully we’ll see a better version of Atlético on Thursday when we host Eibar in a Copa del Rey quarter-final.
Player ratings: Moyá 7, Vrsaljko 7, Godín 6, Savic 6, Filipe 6, Gabi 7, Koke 6, Saúl 6, Gaitán 7 (MOTM), Griezmann 6, Torres 5. Subs: Carrasco 6, Gameiro 5, Giménez N/A.