La Liga: Atlético 2 – 1 Eibar
Red and whites get off the mark in La Liga but fail to shine
Atlético Madrid slumbered to an unconvincing 2-1 win over newly promoted Eibar on Saturday night, as Diego Simeone served the first of a four match ban in our opening home match of the new La Liga season.
Goals from João Miranda and Mario Mandžukić made sure of the three points in the first half, although the game will not live long in the memory as the Colchoneros turned in a very under-par performance.
Before the match, Atleti were finally presented with the La Liga trophy some 105 days after triumphing in Barcelona, with an impressive display in the Fondo Sur to commend the Spanish champions unveiled by a vibrant home crowd.
However, it was Eibar who started the stronger, showing the no fear attitude that has earned them so many admirers since winning promotion both to Segunda and Primera over the last couple of seasons.
As manager Gaizka Garitano has demonstrated, the Basque minnows will not be giving respect to anyone, but Atleti, in typical merciless fashion, soon punished all of their early endeavour.
For opposing teams, you know that it’s coming but very rarely can you stop it, as a classic pairing combined to open the scoring. An outswinging Koke corner was met with aplomb by Miranda at the front post, and via the aid of the crossbar it was 1-0 Atleti.
Soon that lead was doubled, again from a set-piece as the Calderón heralded their new number nine and his first goal in league competition. This time Gabi was the provider, his perfect free-kick delivery only needing contact from Mario Mandžukić for it to be 2-0. As you would expect, the Croatian duly obliged.
It looked for all the world as if the Rojiblancos would run away with it, but in truth that was probably as good as it would get for Atleti over the whole 90 minutes. Many teams would roll over in this situation, but Eibar continued to play their football and would be rewarded for it.
Last week, a stunning Javi Lara free-kick won them their curtain raiser at home to Real Sociedad, and the 28 year-old nearly repeated the trick on the half hour mark if not for a smart Moya save. The former Getafe stopper has looked solid so far, but he could do nothing about the goal that reduced the deficit just a couple of minutes later.
Breaking down Atleti from open play has been a thankless task for some of the best team’s in Europe since Simeone came in, but the La Liga newcomers did it with ease and after a fluid move down the left, the ball was laid on a plate for Abraham Minero to curl the ball into the top corner.
All of a sudden the ball was in Eibar’s court, as they began asking the questions and looking the more likely to get the next goal. Raúl García, called up to the Spain squad for the first time yesterday, saw a deflected effort tipped onto the post just before half-time, but that would be the last real chance from open play that the home side we could get.
The second period resembled many of the games we saw at the tail end of last season, where a clearly fatigued team would just do what they could to get over the line and claim the three points. At this stage in the season though, there really should be no excuse.
Again, the visitors were on top, and although they didn’t carve out many real clear-cut scoring chances, it made for uncomfortable viewing for Simeone and the fans in the crowd, who grew more and more agitated as the minutes went on.
New signings Mandžukić and Antoine Griezmann were both withdrawn before the last 20 minutes, and with that went the last of the whimpering attacking threat, bar a few long range efforts towards the end.
In the closing stages, Garitano’s side did get a sight of goal as striker Ángel found himself in between Godín and Miranda, but luckily Siqueira came in at the last minute to divert the ball behind for a corner. With just four minutes left on the clock, it was a huge let off, and also a very uncharacteristic lapse in concentration from our backline.
You could hear the relief around the stadium when the referee’s whistle finally sounded for full-time, and Eibar will most likely have felt disappointed that ultimately they could not get something at the home of the reigning champions.
Missing the energetic encouragement of Simeone on the sidelines for a second match running, the performance was again very drab, devoid of any spark or real creativity from open play in particular.
On Monday, the team had the excuse of having to play just days after a highly intense Super Cup aggregate win over Real Madrid, but can’t put down their inability to perform in the season’s first home game after almost a full week off.
The team will still need time to gel as there are a fair few new faces, but concerns are not unfounded, especially with another trip to the Bernabéu coming up after the International break.
In the end, we got the job done but nobody will have left the Calderón fully satisfied, or in the same bouyant mood as ahead of kick-off. Two days remain until the transfer window slam shut, will the club look to re-inforce our options and address the current problems the team has?
Line-up: Moya; Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Siqueira; Gabi, Mario Suárez, Koke, Raúl García; Griezmann (“60 Raúl Jiménez) and Mandžukić (“67 Saúl).
Goals: 1-0 Miranda (“11); 2-0 Mandžukić (“25); 2-1 Abraham (“34)
|Miranda 11'||Abraham 34'|
|30 August 2014|
|Raul Jimenez (67')|
|Dani Nieto (62')|