Griezmann brace lifts La Liga leader Atletico Madrid past Las Palmas
Everyone in Spain — Europe for that matter — must know what the challenge will be when facing Atletico Madrid.
The trick is figuring out how to get a result against the La Liga leaders. Opponents get a fair amount of the ball and usually aren’t shy about trying to get forward but find themselves running into that iron wall that Atletico builds in front of its goal, eight men always in position to blunt raids before they can really amount to much.
Led by veterans Diego Godin and Juanfran, the Atletico backline is a well-oiled unit, compressing space well and rarely being caught out of position. When shots come through, usually from long range, goalkeeper Jan Oblak deals with them. Going foward Atletico doesn’t waste numbers, usually attacking with a calm precision that makes certain they aren’t caught short at the back. When an opportunity develops they are lethal about the business of supporting their front-runners.
It may not be beautiful football but nobody can argue with the results, Diego Simeone having made Atletico into not just a La Liga superpower but a perennial European contender as well. Sunday it was Las Palmas’ turn to batter away without success. A first half goal from Filipe Luis set the visitors on their way, then Antoine Griezmann finished things off with two goals for a 3-0 triumph that kept them atop the table. By winning, Atletico guaranteed they would be no worse than two points clear of Barcelona, who kicked off later, and four ahead of arch-rival Real Madrid, a 5-1 winner over Sporting Gijon in an earlier Sunday match.
Although Las Palmas — trying to escape the relegation region but still very much one of five teams in that complex battle — made Oblak work a bit, there were no scraps to pick up. When Atletico spotted their chances they took them with their usual precision. Griezmann had a part in all three goals and ultimately the hosts were a spent force.
The first breakthrough came in the 17th minute, Juanfran allowed to advance down the right before crossing to the top of the box for Griezmann. The French attacker didn’t try to head on goal, instead flicking the ball on to Filipe Luis whose cross-body shot from 12 yards on the left nestled comfortably into the opposite corner.
Once ahead, Atletico simply makes sure that the three points do not get away. Sunday, Simone’s team wasn’t afraid to put in the hard tackle or commit a tactical foul and was very good at forcing Las Palmas into a stop-start game that allowed the defense time to organize. The final twist in the match came in the space of 60 seconds midway through the second half. First, Roque Mesa first-timed a Willan Jose header inches wide of Oblak’s post only for Atletico to immediately go the other way, Griezmann accepting a fine Koke pass and a perfectly-judged run to make it 2-0 in the 68th minute. His 90th minute strike simply made the scoreline reflect the gap between the teams, Gabi spotting Koke, whose first-time pass sprung Griezmann for another solo raid down the middle.