Antoine Griezmann’s sensational strike saw Atletico Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at home on Sunday, moving Diego Simeone’s men level on points with Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
Griezmann smashed home his 13th goal of the season from 20 yards out mid-way through the second half to help Atletico to an eighth straight win in all competitions, a result that capitalised on Barca’s 2-2 draw with Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
Both teams came into the game at Estadio Vicente Calderon in fine form, with Athletic having only lost one of their last 13 fixtures in all competitions, and it was the visitors who got in front after 27 minutes.
Aymeric Laporte converted a corner with a neat finish at the back post to put Ernesto Valverde’s men into a deserved lead but a set-piece also provided Atletico’s equaliser just before the break, Saul heading in Koke’s corner to ensure the scores were level at half time.
Griezmann had the final say on 67 minutes, the France international hammering home Angel Correa’s pass from the edge of the box.
Raul Garcia made his first return to the Vicente Calderon after leaving Atletico for Athletic in August, while Luciano Vietto continued to deputise for the injured Jackson Martinez.
It took 12 minutes for the first shot on target to arrive, Aritz Aduriz heading Oscar de Marcos’ cross straight at Jan Oblak in the Atleti goal.
Simeone’s men had the ball in the net four minutes later but it was ruled out for offside. Vietto dived to head in Juanfran’s precise cross, but the Argentina striker was just beyond the last defender.
Oblak was alert to tip over a lob from Aduriz but Athletic scored from the resulting corner. Laporte forced the ball home at the back post to break the hosts’ run of four successive clean sheets.
Atletico were level on the stroke of half-time. Iraizoz turned a shot from Yannick Ferreira Carrasco around the post, but Saul got up highest to head Koke’s corner home for his third goal in four games.
The Basque club, unbeaten in their last five, came close to retaking the lead early in the second half but Oblak saved a drive from Eneko Boveda and he was again well placed to block another shot by Aduriz.
Athletic had not won at Atletico since Simeone’s appointment in 2011 but they were looking the likelier winners, Aduriz heading wide from a good position as he sought to add to his 20 goals for the season.
Griezmann had other ideas and when substitute Correa won the ball deep in Athletic territory he thumped a low finish into the bottom corner that gave Athletic’s goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz no chance.
Key Opta stats:
– Antoine Griezmann has scored more winning goals than any other player in La Liga this season (6).
– Atletico de Madrid have scored more goals from outside the box than any other side in La Liga this season (6).
– Athletic have not won a league game at Vicente Calderon with Simeone in charge (D1 L4).
-Antoine Griezmann has scored more goals against Athletic than versus any other side in La Liga (7).
-Saul Niguez is the second highest scorer for Atletico this season (4, all competitions).
-Aymeric Laporte has become the first defender to score against Atletico in La Liga this season.
-Atletico have conceded their first goal from a corner situation in La Liga this season.
-Saul Niguez is the second Atletico player to score in three different competitions this season, after Luciano Vietto (La Liga, CL & Copa del Rey).