In a moment of insecurity, removed as a team from the version that he proposed in the first quarter of the course, Luis Suarez and Jan Oblak are invaluable resources, whose dimension takes on an indispensable transcendence for the Atlético de Madrid winner against Alaves for the Uruguayan goal scorer, accurate in a header, and for the Slovenian goalkeeper, penalty savior (1-0).
They are the two moments of the game. The first, in minute 54, with the center of Kieran Trippier, sensational for power, spin and direction, from the right wing for the unstoppable shot of the ‘9’, scorer for the nineteenth time this League, definitive for Atlético, as in eight of the last twelve victories of his team.
As definitive as Oblak was later, in the 84th minute, with a 1-0 scoreline, against Joselu, on the edge of a draw that would have been a concession of unthinkable consequences in the face of the persecution of Real Madrid and from Barcelona, as was the lack of Savic that caused that launch, repelled by the goalkeeper, one of the best in the world, vindicated with a conclusive save.
Two protagonists, two plays, that made the difference in a game that Atlético dominated, with a unproductive possession almost always, transformed into nothing in the last meters, contained and frustrated by the good defensive work of Alavés, overcome at a specific moment that would only have been that, perhaps, if Luis Suárez had not been in front, the leader’s best argument today.
Because Atlético is at a time when Facundo Pellistri (a 19-year-old boy, on loan from Manchester United this January who adds to his speed and ability a daring that he did not even lose in a scenario of the magnitude of the Metropolitan) overflowed in the minute 4, when Édgar was about to finish off or the Uruguayan winger tried his shot in the 7th minute, no one was surprised.
Nor when, in the 24th minute, a counterattack from Alavés ended in Pere Pons’ pass for Joselu’s duel against Oblak, whom he crossed, savior, timely, essential, Savic, today the best defense that Atlético has, perhaps the only one who is at the level of the team that started the season. Their crossing calmed the fright. Maybe he even avoided the goal. There was another shot at 35 and a center from Joselu that triggered the alarms on the brink of halftime.
The current rojiblanco team transmits vulnerability. Even with the 5-3-2 to which he returned this Sunday and which reinforced him so much a few months ago. He discovers it more than ever in recent times. It is one of the leader’s fissures. Compared to September, October or November, there is more to the structure of the rojiblanco team, that he no longer plays a part of what he played before, that he no longer overflows as he did and that he does not create the chances with constancy as before.
He feels it even more when his adversary, today Alavés, handles himself so well and applied, when he expects it, compacted, with an accumulation of footballers in his defensive sectors that compress the success or failure, a good delivery or a clearance, which lead to a traffic jam from which Atlético today has neither the freshness nor the imagination nor the determination of before, no matter how much this Sunday he took the initiative from beginning to end.
The best example is that, beyond a hand that he claimed in the first moments (reviewed by the VAR and resolved with the sanction of a previous foul in the jump of Giménez), his first opportunity, at least close to such qualification, was a Savic kick center at half an hour that demanded the intervention of Pacheco. There was nothing before the rojiblanco team in attack, more than the unproductive movement of the ball that is left to nothing as soon as it appears through decisive areas.
Then Correa tried, stumbled like so many times, diverted in the resolution of his foray into the area, with no news yet from Luis Suárez other than offside. And that is a problem for Atlético. He needs the Uruguayan ‘9’, as dependent as he has been and is on him when the game is not enough for much more than a few options. Alavés knows him perfectly, who lost 1-2 in the first round because the scorer emerged at the end.
When the Uruguayan attacker enjoyed his first option, with a low shot that was lost near the post, around the 40th minute, the game had changed, Alavés already felt the impossibility of always being in the right moment and the right place against the local insistence to the same extent as the Atlético was pushing him towards his area.
And, when that happens it is a risk; you are on the edge of any instant of inspiration from one of the many resources that Atlético has at its disposal. From Trippier, for example, with his great first center from the right wing … And, above all, from Luis Suárez, whose header was one of those who do not admit a doubt or answer.
A relief for Simeone, an explosion of joy for Atlético, aware of the mess in which it was, sure that these three points were essential in the sprint to be champion, and a boost for the team, which he opposed the 2-0 in a shot by Llorente, who had not been seen as always, with that arrival until then, frustrated by Pacheco’s stop, whose detour went to the crossbar.
Since the 1-0, perhaps a few moments before, it had been a different story, for Atlético and Alavés, who found something they didn’t even know; a reckless penalty from Savic, who let go of his elbow with possession in his possession, pursued by Luis Rioja. Advised by the VAR, it was reviewed by the referee. And he pointed it out. Joselu launched and Oblak cleared it amid the suffering of a hurried leader.
1 – Atlético de Madrid: Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Giménez, Hermoso, Carrasco; Llorente, Koke, Lemar (Herrera, m. 74); Correa (Saúl, d. 74) and Luis Suárez.
0 – Alaves: Pacheco; Ximo Navarro, Lejeune, Laguardia (Tachi, m. 70), Duarte, Edgar (Rioja, m. 60); Pellistri, Battaglia, Pere Pons (Borja Sainz, m. 80), Jota (Abdallahi, m. 70); and Joselu.
Goal: 1-0, m. 54: Luis Suarez.
Referee: Martínez Munuera (C. Valenciano). He admonished the locals Carrasco (m. 77), Savic (m. 85) and Saúl (m. 92) and the visitor Jota Peleteiro (m. 33).
Incidents: match corresponding to the twenty-eighth day of LaLiga Santander, played at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium without an audience.