With late help from VAR, Atletico rallies to beat Athletic
It was a desperation move, and it worked.
Despite not being able to run, Godin scored the winning goal in stoppage time — with the help of a video review — as Atletico twice came from behind to defeat Athletic Bilbao 3-2 in the Spanish league on Saturday.
"I was going to leave the match but Cholo (Simeone) told me to go play as a striker," the Uruguay defender said. "We never gave up and in the end we were rewarded."
Godin pulled a muscle in the 64th minute while making a run to try to stop — unsuccessfully — Inaki Willians from opening the scoring for Athletic.
Simeone made Atletico's third substitution a few moments earlier and couldn't replace the veteran defender. Godin said he was already looking for someone to take his captain's armband when he realized he would have to stay.
"There were a lot of minutes left and I thought about leaving. I couldn't run," said Godin, who was expected to be sidelined for at least three weeks because of the injury. "But I knew I could help in a set-piece or something like that. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to help if I was not on the field."
The last-gasp goal at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was initially disallowed because of offside, but the call was reversed after the VAR confirmed Godin was in legal position for his header.
Simeone said he knew Godin would likely cause problems to the Athletic defense despite being injured.
"Sometimes things work out perfectly," the coach said.
The victory moved Atletico one point behind league leader Barcelona, which hosts Real Betis on Sunday. Espanyol can move past Atletico when it visits fourth-place Sevilla on Sunday.
Sixth-place Real Madrid, coming off three straight victories since interim coach Santiago Solari replaced the fired Julen Lopetegui, visits Celta Vigo on Sunday.
The last-minute loss added to a disappointing season for Athletic, which hasn't won in 11 straight matches and is only one spot above the relegation zone. Athletic's last victory was in August. Since then, the Basque Country club has drawn seven matches and lost four.
"Football is not being fair to us," Willians said. "We didn't deserve the loss and not even the draw. We played a great match."
Valencia's good run continued with a 1-0 win at Getafe thanks to a late penalty kick that was also awarded through video review.
Dani Parejo converted the 81st-minute penalty after the VAR showed forward Kevin Gameiro was pulled by a defender inside the area.
The result moved Valencia to 14th in the standings, five points above the relegation zone.
Getafe, 10th in the standings, hadn't lost in four matches in all competitions.
Valladolid, owned by former Brazil striker Ronaldo, moved to seventh despite being held to 0-0 by Eibar at home, while ninth-place Girona also was held to a scoreless draw at home against Leganes.