Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid – Football Match Report – April 25, 2021
La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid’s title bid was once again quashed, beaten 2-1 at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, giving Barcelona the chance to climb to the top of the table next week.
Alex Berenguer put the hosts in the lead in the ninth minute and they missed plenty of opportunities to extend their lead before a Stefan Savic header brought Atletico level down to 77.
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Diego Simeone’s point guard went for the winner but were caught on the other end when Athletic defender Inigo Martinez returned from a corner in the 86th minute.
“People ask me what will be the most important factor and it is obvious to me that it will be the mental factor,” Simeone said after the game.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted in the first half, it was totally different in the second, and the team that manages that emotional balance best will have the best chance of winning the title.”
Atletico still lead the table with 73 points, but third-placed Barca with 71 points after beating Villarreal 2-1 earlier on Sunday can break free from the top if they beat Granada on Thursday.
“We are devastated,” said Atleti captain Koke. “We tried to get back into the game in the second half by any means possible, we drew and then they got the winner with a save.
“We just have to keep going and try to win our next game, we really need to do that.”
Atletico’s loss adds further intrigue to an exciting four-way race for the title, with three points separating them and fourth-placed Sevilla who beat Granada 2-1, with five games to go.
Champions Real Madrid are second out of 71 after being held to a 0-0 home draw against Real Betis on Saturday.
Atletico will then travel to struggling Elche ahead of a successful Barcelona game on May 8.
“We are still fighting for the title and we think we can win the five games we have left,” Koke added.
After a poor run of results that left Real, Barca and Sevilla return in a title race, which looked like Atletico’s to lose, Simeone’s side calmed their nerves with back-to-back wins over Eibar and Huesca in trouble.
They have faced an athletic team without a win in any competition since March 7 and who lost two Copa del Rey finals this month, beaten 4-0 by Barcelona in last week’s showpiece.
But the Athletic took a closer look at the energetic and intelligent side of his first few weeks under coach Marcelino.
Berenguer put them in front with a diving header from close range, reacting quickly after Ander Capa’s cross deflected the Atletico defender Felipe.
They missed several opportunities to increase their lead before half-time against a passive and disjointed Atletico.
Simeone launched a triple attacking substitution after the break in search of an equalizer, throwing top scorer Luis Suarez, record-signing Joao Felix and winger Thomas Lemar.
The changes gave Atleti more urgency and led them to dominate most of the second half, but they still lacked a point and struggled to contain Athletic’s counters.
The hosts should have doubled their advantage when Jon Morcillo broke into the left flank and found striker Oihan Sancet, who threw his shot over the bar.
Atletico had a lifeline when Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon misjudged Yannick Carrasco’s corner and Savic got up to go home, but they couldn’t keep the momentum going and Martinez had the last word.