Osasuna 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Simeone's men unspectacular but Saul maintains grip on top four
Saul Niguez scored the only goal of the game as Atletico Madrid responded to their Copa del Rey elimination with an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Osasuna that maintained their grip on LaLiga's top four.
Diego Simeone's side suffered a 3-1 extra-time loss to Real Madrid in the Copa quarter-finals on Thursday and were far from their best three days later at El Sadar.
Jan Oblak had to keep Osasuna at bay in the second half, before substitute Saul's calm 74th-minute finish proved the difference as Atletico recorded a much-needed triumph.
Victory moved Atletico three points clear of Villarreal and Real Betis in fifth and sixth respectively, while Simeone's side trail Real Sociedad – who play Real Madrid later on Sunday – by four.
An offside flag rendered Oblak's impressive 23rd-minute save against Chimy Avila redundant before Jose Gimenez headed over a presentable chance from Antoine Griezmann's in-swinging corner at the other end.
Aitor Fernandez repelled Griezmann from close range after a scramble inside the area, though neither side impressed during an otherwise drab first half.
Griezmann forced another smart Fernandez stop with a low drive immediately after the interval, while Avila headed David Garcia's deep right-wing cross narrowly over.
Oblak expertly denied Moi Gomez's back-post half-volley just past the hour, and that save proved pivotal when Saul raced onto Rodrigo De Paul's throughball to find the bottom-right corner and secure victory.
What does it mean? Warning signs for Atletico despite victory
Atletico found a way past one of their favourite opponents in the end, but Los Colchoneros' first-half performance was particularly lacklustre, managing just one shot on target.
They have now won on five straight LaLiga visits to Osasuna, yet the first-half warning signs regarding their lack of creativity should still be heeded by Simeone, whose side are yet to find any real form after the World Cup break.
Lively Griezmann shines for lifeless Atletico
Griezmann has been the standout performer for an otherwise uninspiring Atletico this season, having been involved in nine of his side's last 13 league goals before this game.
The forward was smartly denied by Fernandez on three occasions among his game-high six shots, while he created two chances in another impressive display.
While strike partner Griezmann dictated proceedings, Angel Correa was something of a spectator up top for the visitors.
The World Cup winner managed just 14 passes and 22 touches – the fewest of any Atletico outfield starter – before his 65th-minute removal for Alvaro Morata.
Key Opta facts
- Saul Niguez scored his first goal for Atletico Madrid in all competitions since January 2021 against Cadiz, also in LaLiga, one year, 11 months and 29 days ago, ending a run of 44 consecutive games without scoring for Los Rojiblancos.
- Atletico Madrid have kept two clean sheets in a row for the first time in LaLiga this season – the previous time was in May 2022 on MD35 and MD36 last season, which was also the last time they had consecutive wins without conceding in the competition.
- Koke made his 400th appearance in LaLiga, becoming only the second player to reach that figure for Atletico Madrid in the history of the competition, after Adelardo Rodriguez (401).
- Rodrigo De Paul played his 50th game for Atletico Madrid in LaLiga (84 in total after his 34 appearances for Valencia), the second Argentine player to reach this milestone with the club under Diego Simeone after Angel Correa (255).
- Osasuna are the team Diego Simeone has faced the most in LaLiga as a manager without ever drawing (P14 W13 L1).
Atletico are at home to Getafe on Saturday, when Osasuna visit Espanyol.