In a routine night of football, Atlético Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The win puts Atleti level on points with Barcelona at the top of the table, although they sit second on goal difference.
So, who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Angel Correa
Atlético Madrid replaced Antoine Griezmann this summer with Joao Felix. Or, at least, they signed Felix for the same amount they sold Griezmann for. The Portuguese teenager is vastly different to the refined Frenchman, and is a more electric goalscoring talent. So who, then, was going to be Atleti’s new playmaker in the final third?
Today gave us a very good answer: Angel Correa. The Argentine is 24-years-old now having joined Atleti as a teenager in 2015. Truth be told, he’s had a largely underwhelming career despite a few moments of genuine magic, but the absence of Griezmann and even Felix could be just the catalyst Correa needs to finally find his rhythm.
Correa played No.10 today and bagged himself both assists for Diego Simeone’s men. His first assist was pure hocus pocus, as he destroyed Unai Nunez with a first touch that doubled as a delightfully delirious turn into the box, before then killing him again with a cutback then taunting Ander Capa and Dani Garcia before whipping the ball away from them too. Then, surrounded by four defenders, Correa slid the ball to the side for Saúl to thump home. A huge goal created by a moment of magic from Angel Correa, this dude means business.
His second assist, a nice run, turn and devastatingly measured low ball across the face of goal giving Alvaro Morata an easy tap-in, was really impressive as well. He was subbed off to rapturous applause. Could this Argentine finally be ready to make good on his immense talent? Atleti will hope so because if Correa keeps on playing like this, there’s gonna be trouble.
Loser: Inaki Williams
Inaki Williams is an intensely frustrating player, and his performance against Atlético Madrid was a huge example of why. The Basque striker is a big talent but all too often he disappears from games. Or at least he becomes far too easy for defenders to deal with, despite his searing pace and skill on the ball.
In part, he struggled because Atleti denied him any space in which to run. But he must also cop a fair bit of the criticism himself. He created two chances, which is nice, but he was Athletic Club’s line-leading striker at the Wanda Metropolitano and he had no shots. Zero shots. All game long before he was subbed off despite Athletic chasing a goal.
Winner: Thomas Partey
When Atlético Madrid signed Marcos Llorente and Héctor Herrera in the summer it looked like Thomas Partey’s days at the Wanda were over. But the Ghanaian knuckled down and has come out this season playing at a ridiculously high level. His performance in the Madrid Derby was a particular highlight, but here tonight he was once again just cool, calm and in control.
Thomas’ skill at the base of midfield is so high his ability so effortless that if Diego Simeone wanted him to he could transition to a proactive ball-dominant style of play and Thomas would be able to make the switch seamlessly. He offers Atleti a level of control they haven’t had from that position since Tiago Mendes was at the club back in 2014. It’s unlucky for Llorente, but Thomas’ form is very good for Thomas and very good for Atlético Madrid.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Loser: Athletic Club’s away form
Despite wearing some stunning azure blue shirts in their away kit, Athletic Club are not good away from home. Well, not good may be doing them a lot of favours; they’re terrible. In five away trips in La Liga so far this season, they have drawn four and lost two. Now admittedly they have only conceded five goals in that time, but they’ve only scored twice as well.
At the San Mamés, Athletic are ferocious. The Lions roar fiercely at home, and the partisan Basque crowd make a intimidating atmosphere for any and every player who comes visiting. But without that key advantage, the lack of quality in attacking areas really hit hard and the side become all-too-easy to contain.
Koke is an Atlético Madrid legend. He’s Atleti through-and-through and has been there all throughout Diego Simeone’s time in charge. He’s played wide, he’s played high, he’s even played deep. Koke has been Atleti’s Mr. Versatile, playing wherever he has to in order to plug the gaps in the teams midfield. And he works hard to plug those gaps, covering more ground than any other player.
Lately his lack of sharpness has led to a small minority of Atleti fans to voice their displeasure toward him. As he was subbed off in the Champions League there was audible booing from the crowd. But against Athletic, Koke showed how important his workrate is as he helped match the Basque’s absurd work ethic in the middle of the park.
Koke made more tackles (4) than any other player and even played a delicious pass into Correa before his second assist. The crowd was massively supportive of him (his name received an enormous cheer when read out) and it seems like he has the vast majority of the Atleti faithful on his side. A dream come true for a local boy going through some hard times.
Loser: Barcelona and Real Madrid
With El Clásico cancelled this weekend, largely because of weird bureaucracy and a fear that a political protest that’s getting worldwide coverage would get… worldwide coverage… there was a hole in La Liga’s coverage. Barça and Madrid weren’t going to be picking up any points so here was a perfect chance for their rivals to steal a march on them. All they had to do was beat Athletic.
Well, they did beat Athletic. Now they’re second in the league on goal difference and there is a zero point difference between themselves and Barcelona, putting them ahead of rivals Real Madrid. Now any dropped points for Barça or Madrid going forward is going to mean that Atleti will be perfectly placed to pounce and perhaps even usurp them at the top of the division.
Playing with that kind of pressure, where any mistake will be heavily punished, is surely going to have a negative effect on the Blaugrana and Los Blancos, which will in turn give Atleti an even greater chance to usurp them at the top of La Liga. The Spanish superclubs would have been hoping for Athletic’s recent struggles to continue, so that any potential dropped points will boost their own title race. However, that didn’t happen and in all honesty with the machine-like consistency with which they dispatched Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Madrid look like they’re not going anywhere this season.