Atletico bounce back from Copa del Rey setback, skip past Eibar
Atletico Madrid overcame a drenched playing surface to scrap their way to a 3-1 Primera Division win at Eibar.
Antoine Griezmann put the visitors ahead after just seven minutes and then two quick-fire goals from Mario Mandzukic midway through the first half put the game beyond the reach of Eibar.
The hosts managed to grab a late consolation goal through Federico Piovaccari. The pitch was in a dire state after heavy rain in the Basque Country and this was by no means an aesthetically pleasing game, but combative Atletico were in their element here, and the win sees them keep in touch with league leaders Real Madrid.
Diego Simeone’s side suffered a 3-2 defeat to Barcelona in a gruelling Copa del Rey encounter during the week but were boosted by the return of midfield dynamo Koke and defensive rock Diego Godin.
Atletico were, however, without suspended captain Gabi, while Arda Turan was injured and Juanfran was relegated to the bench, replaced by Jesus Gamez.
Eibar were also without key personnel in midfield, with Dani Garcia suspended. Atletico had the better of the early stages and did not take long to take the lead.
Raul Garcia won a 50-50 challenge in the air and spotted Griezmann on the far side of the box, and the Frenchman arrowed his team-mate’s pass first time into the far bottom corner.
Eibar nearly hit back immediately after through Abraham, but the full-back’s shot whizzed past a post. The Basques were still in the game until Mandzukic doubled the visitors’ advantage on 23 minutes. Griezmann found space on the left and crossed to the back post for the Croatian international to side-foot home on the volley from a few yards out.
And Atleti’s top scorer was making a nuisance of himself in the box again barely two minutes later, turning a defender and smashing the ball in at the near post to take his tally to 12 goals in his first season in Spain.
With Atletico cruising towards victory, the second half was a mere formality.
Mandzukic was denied a trademark headed goal by Eibar goalkeeper Xabi Irureta, but in the final minute of normal time Piovaccari did manage to convert a header after persistent hard work down the left flank by Saul Berjon.