Antoine Griezmann’s strike earned Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao to help Diego Simeone’s side leapfrog their Basque opponents and move third in La Liga on Saturday.
Atletico’s goal lived a charmed life in the final stages, thanks to brilliant defending from Reinildo Mandava and some impressive saves from Ivo Grbic, who had to come on for the injured Jan Oblak.
Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic were awarded a late penalty for handball against Reinildo, but it was cancelled after the officials spotted the ball had struck the defender on the face.
Inaki Williams should have opened the scoring early on but directed a free header off target with Atletico goalkeeper Oblak exposed.
At the other end Alvaro Morata did fire Atletico ahead after rounding Unai Simon, but his joy was short-lived as VAR proved he had pushed over defender Yeray Alvarez and the goal was disallowed.
Atletico defender Jose Gimenez was booked for a swing which nearly caught Inaki Williams in a sensitive area, while the Ghana international’s brother, Nico Williams, got short shrift from Atletico’s flawless left-back Reinildo.
Valverde’s free-scoring side had netted 12 goals in their last four games, but against a more sturdy Atletico rearguard they found it hard to carve out further chances.
Regardless, Athletic fans, encouraged by their team’s strong start to the season, had San Mames rocking during half-time, which was extended while club staff tried to tie down an errant piece of goal net.
Griezmann quickly spoiled the party atmosphere when he stroked home in the 47th minute following a cut-back from Alvaro Morata, breaking the deadlock.
The 31-year-old completed a century of La Liga goals for Atletico, only the sixth player to do so in the club’s history.
The 101st might have followed — Atletico coach Simeone spread his arms in frustration when Griezmann hacked a volley into the ground when well placed to trouble Simon just after the hour mark.
Atletico were dealt an apparent blow when Oblak went off injured, appearing to hurt his shoulder after a collision with Alex Berenguer earlier in the half.
However his replacement Grbic made a fine save to deny Raul Garcia and then an even better one from another header during a scramble in the box, which ended when referee Jorge Figueroa Vazquez pointed to the penalty spot.
Reinildo was accused of a handball but the Mozambican blocked Oier Zarraga’s drive with his face and it was scrapped.
Six minutes into stoppage time it seemed Athletic were finally poised to level but Reinildo made another sublime block to deny Raul Garcia just a couple of yards out.
Earlier Nemanja Gudelj scored one of the goals of the season to earn Sevilla a 1-0 win at Mallorca, their first in seven games across all competitions.
New coach Jorge Sampaoli had the Serbian defensive midfielder and goalkeeper Bono to thank for the three points at the Visit Mallorca stadium.
Gudelj, over 30 yards out and with few other options, arrowed a powerful strike into the top left corner after 53 minutes to help Sevilla rise provisionally to 13th.
Morocco’s Bono made a brilliant save to deny Mallorca forward Abdon Prats in the sixth minute and crucially was quick off his line to keep out Angel Rodriguez in the final stages.
Sampaoli had drawn the first two matches of his second spell at the helm, against Athletic Bilbao in the top flight and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
Sevilla sat back and successfully defended their advantage for most of the second half, earning only their second victory of the campaign after nine games.
“I had the feeling I had hit it well and when it went in, I was happy,” said Gudelj, after scoring what was his first goal for Sevilla.
“It’s great to score a goal for this club. The most happy I am is that we won today, we dominated.”
Mallorca, without suspended towering striker Vedat Muriqi, have started the season well after only narrowly avoiding relegation last season and sit 12th on nine points.
World Cup News
/ 2 months ago
FIFA on Saturday confirmed that three bids to host the Women’s World Cup in...
/ 3 months ago
A set of six jerseys that Lionel Messi wore during Argentina’s victorious 2022 World...