Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Atletico Madrid: Costa back in the goals as Atleti are held
Diego Costa’s first goal since October was not enough for Atletico Madrid to take three points at Athletic Bilbao.
Atletico Madrid were unable to enhance their top-four prospects with victory on their return to LaLiga, playing out a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao.
Iker Muniain’s delightful 37th-minute opener was cancelled out 129 seconds later by Diego Costa, who claimed his third goal of the season and first since October.
The striker paid tribute in his celebration to Atletico’s women’s team midfielder Virginia Torrecilla, who underwent successful surgery to have a brain tumour removed last month. Costa showed a shirt bearing her name.
Substitute Santiago Arias came closest to snatching all the points for Los Colchoneros, who sit sixth in the table on goal difference.
Marcos Llorente opened up Athletic with a fine diagonal throughball in the 12th minute, sending Yannick Carrasco scampering through to shoot just wide across goalkeeper Unai Simon, who briefly lost his footing.
Jan Oblak was uncharacteristically wobbly when he took two attempts to grasp Inaki Williams’ 25th-minute header but the Slovenia international displayed his brilliant best when he kept out Yeray’s glancing attempt at full stretch.
Oblak had no chance when Muniain dispatched a clever finish with the outside of his right boot into the bottom right corner.
Atletico sprung immediately from their mid-half slumber – Koke’s cute pass leaving Costa to slide a finish beyond Simon.
No tengo palabras…. SOIS INCREÍBLES!! ¡¡GRACIAS de corazón!! @Atleti @AtletiFemenino #Nuncadejesdecreer pic.twitter.com/FcppjiR2fC
— virginia torrecilla (@VirginiiiaTr) June 14, 2020
That seemed to inspire a role reversal during the early stages of the second half, with Atletico enjoying plenty of attacking territory but Athletic keeping their visitors honest on the break as Yuri Berchiche crashed an effort into the side-netting.
Diego Simeone’s anguish in the dugout was clear when Arias arrived unmarked at the back post 10 minutes from time, drawing a brilliant point-blank save from Simon.
What does it mean? Atletico away form still a worry
Simeone’s side might have memorably prevailed at one of European football’s great fortresses in their previous competitive match, but that victory at Anfield cannot obscure the fact that they have now won just one of their past 11 away games in LaLiga. They are level on points with Real Sociedad and Getafe in fourth and fifth respectively and such diminishing returns on the road are why their battle for Champions League football will probably go down to the wire.
Muniain and Garcia roll back the years
Lockdown has done nothing for anyone’s conception of time and dates, but when Athletic’s creative forwards took control of the first half, it was easy to imagine being somewhere during the early stages of the previous decade. Muniain – still only 27 – was irresistible at times, evoking memories of when he was a wonderkid and Spanish football’s next superstar in waiting. Playing against the club he starred for in their 2013-14 title win, Raul Garcia proved a superb foil for the number 10.
Llorente ill-suited to number 10 duties
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Marcos Llorente’s two-goal heroics against Liverpool undoubtedly played a part in Simeone’s decision to start him in an advanced role behind Costa. Although the Spain international’s play was typically neat and he did not lack for work rate, the absence of his creative qualities from deep as the likes of Thomas Lemar and Alvaro Morata awaited second-half introductions was perplexing.
Atletico are on the road again at Osasuna on Wednesday, when Athletic travel to struggling Eibar.