This was a showdown between second and third in La Liga, and the tension was evident in the match itself. The last 10 minutes of the match was marked more by fouls than goalmouth action. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Antoine Griezmann
Atleti were 1-0 down heading into half-time, and honestly that was a good result for them. They had spent the first half getting the bejeesus beaten out of them by a feisty Sevilla side. Diego Simeone would have been satisfied to go in just 1-0 down, and regroup for the second half.
But not his star man. Oh no. Antoine Griezmann stepped up to a free-kick just on the edge of the box and lifted a stunningly beautiful shot over the top of the wall and even the retreating Sergi Gomez who jumped to try and head it away. The goal was Griezmann’s fifth in his last seven games and ensured Atleti will be at least two points clear of third place even if Real Madrid win.
Loser: Stefan Savic
When Stefan Savic was signed by Atleti, he seemed to be a competent back-up. But Diego Simeone has always had a real fondness for the Montenegrin, despite the fact his team are nearly always better with the likes of José Giménez alongside Diego Godín.
Against Sevilla, with Giménez still not fit enough to play, Savic started yet again. And for the most part he actually played fairly well, defending neatly, but as he always seems to do he came up short at the crucial moment. When Jesus Navas’ cross was knocked into Wissam Ben Yedder’s path by Daniel Carrico, the Frenchman had the time to step towards it, swivel and shoot at goal.
He had that time because Savic’s plan to defend Navas’ original cross was to stand behind Jan Oblak, screening no one (Saúl was behind him blocking the back post) and thus left Ben Yedder with no immediate marker. It was truly catastrophic bit of defending and the fact it didn’t cost Atleti all three points is very lucky.
Winner: Joris Gnagnon
At 21 years old, you would have forgiven Gnagnon for being a bit overwhelmed by the quality of the Atleti attack; in particular his compatriot Antoine Griezmann. But he made light work of it in what was just his second Liga start. Physically dominant, technically dominant, Atleti got absolutely nothing by him. Their only goal was from a free-kick and they only created one golden chance, which wasn’t Gnagnon’s fault. In the second half he even became a potent attacking force, driving forward and launching long shots which tested Jan Oblak!
He had to leave the field late on due to injury, and when he did the entire stadium rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. It was a sight to see, but a piece of praise of which he was more than deserving. A young colossus emerges. Hell, his display was so good you can already see his next move to an elite European side on the cards.
Winner: Thomas Partey
There are many reasons why Atlético Madrid have failed to recapture the excellence during their 2013/2016 heyday. Part of that is obviously the mental fatigue of losing two finals in three years, but the other is the simple fact that they’ve never managed to find a midfield which best recaptures the dominant duo of Tiago and Gabi.
In Rodri, they have perhaps found their new Gabi – but Tiago is a much harder skill-set to replace. A journeyman midfielder, he arrived at Atleti able to defend, both by fair and foul ways, and pass the ball forward with great vision and intelligence. However in Thomas, we are seeing the “new Tiago” emerge. Thomas is as technically gifted as he is physically imposing, making him the ideal Simeone midfielder.
When the match against Sevilla descended into anarchy, Thomas had zero hesitation or problems going from the kind of midfield playmaker who wonderfully slid Griezmann through 1v1 to a nasty hatchet man whose violent tackles drew the ire of Sevilla’s entire side.
There’s just one winner here: the Blaugrana. Before they have even kicked a ball, Barcelona now know that even if they lose against Getafe, they will remain top by a margin of two points, and be four points (i.e. two matches) ahead of third place. And should the Blaugrana be victorious against Getafe, they will open up a five-point gap on second-placed Atleti and a seven-point (i.e. three matches) on third. Despite their rocky Autumn, Barça’s margin for error at the top of La Liga grows ever-wider.
Loser: Diego Simeone
Simeone knew that with his Atleti side playing first out of the traditional “big three,” they had a great chance to lay down a marker and set the tone for the day. In the end, however, not only did Atleti fail to beat Sevilla away, they failed to even play well. They got pantsed for half the match, and then even though they fought back for a little while in the second half, they never managed to muster anything like a sense of dominance. Sevilla were never really that threatened by Atleti, who basically created just one great chance in the second half and seemed happy to do that; but to play with that margin of error is absurd.