Diego Simeone has defended his decision to substitute Antoine Griezmann prior to Atletico Madrid’s dramatic late winner against Deportivo La Coruna.
Atletico salvaged a 1-0 victory at the Riazor in stoppage time when midfielder Thomas Partey, teed up by a Gabi free-kick, curled past Costel Pantilimon from 20 yards.
Saturday’s late drama came after an uninspiring contest produced few clear chances at either end and a surprising decision by Simeone to take off Griezmann when the match was goalless.
With 10 minutes remaining, Griezmann was replaced by defender Jose Gimenez, even though strikers Fernando Torres and Luciano Vietto were available on the bench, with the France international looking unhappy as he left the field.
It was the forward’s seventh consecutive game without scoring, his worst streak as an Atletico player, in a campaign that has seen him score just three times in 13 appearances across all competitions.
“I was looking to boost the midfield and I sensed that strengthening that area would give us a chance to find open paths to look for the goal through Saul, [Nicolas] Gaitan and [Kevin] Gameiro,” Simeone said after the match.
“The goal came at the free-kick and the game developed as we expected.”
7 – Griezmann is seven games in a row without scoring, his worst streak as an Atletico Madrid player. Drought. pic.twitter.com/YBJZCwE44H
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 4, 2017
The win meant Atletico avoided a fourth consecutive draw and moved up to third in LaLiga, above city rivals Real Madrid ahead of the champions’ match against Las Palmas on Sunday.
Simeone is optimistic about Atletico’s chances of challenging, especially with Griezmann yet to hit top form.
He continued: “Griezmann is a great player on our team and I think about the positive things.
“We have not lost in 11 games. If we have 23 points and Griezmann has not scored then it is a good sign as his goals are still to come.
“We have a very committed team and I am proud of my players. We responded, we are competitive and we played very solidly.
“I am convinced that this year we are having more scoring situations and playing better than last year. We have two points more than this time last season. We are looking to win all our games but we are not going to do that.
“Deportivo had game, but not goal situations. We did not have many either, but we were always in the game and that’s what gave us the chance to win it. It was a great hit by Thomas.”
Victory provided a timely boost to Simeone, whose side had endured a disappointing home draw against Qarabag on Tuesday to leave them in huge danger of suffering a group-stage exit in the Champions League.
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