Three late goals from Kevin Gameiro earned Atlético Madrid a much needed 4-1 win over Sporting Gijón on Saturday evening, the Frenchman hitting a five minute hat-trick from the bench to clinch the victory.
Yannick Carrasco had opened the scoring for the visitors inside the first 20 seconds of the second half, but Sporting hit back instantly through Sergio Álvarez.
After a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Celta last weekend, spirits in the Atleti camp were high but for much of the match it wasn’t apparent, with the home side on the front foot particularly in the first half.
Antoine Griezmann did send an early shot just wide of the mark but after that it was all Sporting, with 6 ft 8 striker Lacina Traoré causing a lot of problems to the makeshift Atleti defence.
Traoré came closest to opening the scoring when he hit the post from a cross with Moyà beaten, and he was also denied by a vital last second tackle by Lucas when about to pull the trigger from close range.
The Asturians saw a number of other chances go begging as they pushed forward throughout the rest of the half, but were unable to make the vital breakthrough.
Just after the restart they switched off and were punished, Carrasco running through more or less straight from kick-off and finishing at the second attempt after his original effort was kept out by former rojiblanco goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar.
It was a goal that came completely against the first half run of play, but didn’t discourage Sporting as they came straight back up the other end and scored with their first attack.
Again, questions have to be asked of the Atleti defence as they failed to clear a cross from the left, giving Álvarez space to take the ball down and fire home through a crowd of bodies.
At that point, it looked as if Rubi’s side had the momentum and would go on and win the match, with the visiting side offering very little on the counter and at times having to hold on to the draw.
That changed when Simeone brought on Kevin Gameiro from the bench, a substitution that gave the match a completely different dynamic and a much different threat for Sporting to worry about.
After yet another debateable offside decision went against Griezmann when he finished smartly from inside the box, Gameiro then got behind the defence and was taken down by the last man, but again wasn’t given the decision.
With ten minutes on the clock though, the French Connection combined to put Atleti back in front and this time it counted, the former Sevilla man latching onto a brilliant ball from his striker partner to round the ‘keeper and finish in style.
A minute later it was three, Gameiro finding space in behind the defence once more and finishing confidently – something we’ve not seen too much of from him this season.
With goals he should have new found confidence, and that was evident when he completed a stunning five minute hat-trick shortly after, sliding home in similar style to his second goal to make it 4-1.
It was a fabulous cameo from the 29 year-old and one that gives Simeone a selection problem ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Bayer Leverkusen, with Fernando Torres also in good recent form.
However given that our frontline has misfired for most of the season, it is a problem that he will welcome and one that comes at just the right time for Atleti – who are now just a point behind Sevilla in third place (although they do have a game in hand).
Player ratings: Moyá 5, Vrsaljko 6, Savic 6, Lucas 7, Filipe 6, Gabi 7, Koke 6, Carrasco 7, Correa 6, Griezmann 7, Torres 6. Subs: Saúl 6, Gameiro 8 (MOTM), Thomas 6.