Atletico Madrid faced Athletic Bilbao this evening in a crucial game in their La Liga title bid. Los Rojiblancos went into the game top of the table, three points clear of Barcelona and five points clear of Real Madrid with a game in hand on both. They finished it level on games played, six clear of Barcelona and eight clear of Madrid, having won 2-1 and taken a giant step forward psychologically.
Los Leones went into the game looking at it as a free hit. The Basque side are flying high, into the final of the Copa del Rey after beating Levante and already having won the Supercopa de Espana by beating Barcelona. They’re a different animal under Marcelino and would have fancied themselves to spoil the party.
The visitors started well, too. Iker Muniain struck first, putting Athletic into a 21st minute lead. Marcos Llorente then equalised two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the first half, before Luis Suarez won and converted a penalty minutes into the second to put Los Rojiblancos into an eventually decisive lead.
“It was very important after Sunday, we needed to get back to winning ways at home after the effort we made,” Diego Simeone said post-match in comments carried by Marca. “What I liked the most was that the team went from a bad moment inside the first ten minutes, with them better and well-positioned, to re-engaging after the 35th. The second half was very good and we equaled the number of games played as the others.”
Simeone shifted focus backed on the collective after being asked about the decisive contributions of Llorente and Suarez. “I cling to the group because two footballers alone don’t change a game,” he said. “The team understood that it wasn’t having a good time, and they looked for order. Then, the group and the team generated a second half performance we liked a lot.”