In the first half, the Basques despaired of Oblak, both posts and their own efficiency in their clash with Atletico. In the second half, Guruzeta and Nico Williams put Bilbao on the road to victory
Those looking forward to the clash between the third and fifth-placed teams in La Liga were not disappointed, especially by Athletic Bilbao in the early stages. The Basques played Atletico dizzy again and again with pace and wit, only the chance conversion was not right: Oblak made a world-class save against Guruzeta (6th), Inaki Williams only hit aluminum with his attempt (13th).
Atletico’s attacking side only showed their first sign of life in the 16th minute, when Griezmann’s central shot from 25 meters caused Unai Simon more problems than necessary.
Oblak and the post in the way
But the northern Spaniards continued to play forward. Lekue’s cross was defused by Söyüncü, Sancet (20) and Niko Williams (23) both found their mark in Oblak, who proved his world-class credentials in the first half. After half an hour of Bilbao’s power play, the Colchoneros seemed to be able to breathe a sigh of relief, only for Söyüncü to make a clumsy tackle in his own penalty area and pull Nico Williams off his feet. However, the Basques continued to do almost everything except take their chances and Sancet sent the penalty into the stands (36′).
It was almost absurd that Atletico somehow managed to keep the score level after that. Just like his brother, Nico Williams only hit the aluminum after a strong individual action (41′), two minutes later Sancet circled the ball just past the left post. The game went into the break goalless, although the home side could just as easily have led 3-0.
Herrera’s flash of inspiration gives them the lead
While Bilbao had despaired of Madrid in the first half, it didn’t take the home side too long to finally celebrate in the second period: Ander Herrera’s wonderful lob thwarted Atletico’s backline and Guruzeta only had to keep his foot out – the highly deserved lead (51′). The game then became rougher, Atletico were increasingly tough in tackles without offering more in terms of play.
So the hosts controlled and dominated – and were finally rewarded with the logical 2:0. Because Nico Williams had no good passing options on the right of the sixteen, the winger simply curled the ball into the left-hand corner himself – a dream goal (64′).
And Madrid? The team led by the now-substitute attacking virtuoso Griezmann had no ideas in the attacking third and simply could not get their own game going. The minutes ticked by and the home side were much closer to making it 3-0 than the Colchoneros (Inaki Williams, 68; Nico Williams, 74). Llorente had the best chance for the visitors in the 85th minute, but Unai Simon was also able to make a save. The game ended 2-0 and Bilbao moved to within two points of Atletico in the table.