Atletico Madrid lost further ground in the La Liga title race as Diego Simeone’s side fell to a shock 1-0 defeat to Real Betis at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, on what was former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata’s debut for the visitors.
Jan Oblak produced a fine save to deny a strong headed effort from Zouhair Feddal in the top left corner early in the match, at the start of what was a largely uneventful first half, though Betis goalkeeper Pau Lopez showed good form to deny Morata a first-half goal.
Atletico‘s new signing had a seemingly clear penalty appeal waved away by the referee early in the second half as Los Rojiblancos continued to be frustrated in front of goal, though the game opened up after the interval with both sides looking to exploit the spaces that began to develop.
Betis took the lead against the run of play when Filipe Luis conceded a penalty via a handball. Sergio Canales stepped up to fire the spot kick into the corner and well beyond the reach of Oblak just after the hour mark.
¡GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL del Betis! Sergio Canales (65′) no perdonó la pena máxima. Oblak se lanzó con sentido, pero el esfuerzo fue insuficiente para atajar. Ganan los locales. Betis 1-0 Atlético de Madrid.
— Invictos (@InvictosSomos) February 3, 2019
Atletico almost provided an immediate response, though Antoine Griezmann was unfortunate to see his effort from outside the box hit the post.
The visitors struggled to produce any telling moments of attacking quality as Betis saw out a narrow win over Atletico to dent Diego Simeone’s title hopes.
Starting XI: Lopez (7); Mandi (7), Bartra (6), Feddal (7); Barragan (6), Kaptoum (7), Guadrado (7), Canales (8), Guerrero (7); Joaquin (6), Leon (7)
Substitutes: Sidnei (6), Junior Firpo (6), Garcia (N/A)
Key Talking Point
In what was a typically industrious performance from Atletico, Diego Simeone’s side lacked the quality to make their technically superior personnel count.
The first half was largely a scrappy affair with numerous free kicks conceded by both sides, with neither able to seize a foothold in the game. Griezmann and new signing Morata were Atletico’s danger men, but a lack of creativity in midfield left the striking duo struggling to make a consistent impact, and the frontmen did not make the most of the chances that fell their way.
Thomas Partey and Rodri Hernandez provide plenty of solidarity in the middle of the park but not so much in terms of moving the ball forward, and Los Rojiblancos missed the presence of Koke as chief playmaker in that sense.
Simeone’s side have a strike force capable of deciding any match, but that attacking potential must be complemented by greater creativity and technical quality in the middle of the park in order to unlock their full potential.
Starting XI: Oblak (7*); Arias (5), Gimenez (6), Hernandez (6), Juanfran (6); Correa (6), Thomas (7), Hernandez (6), Lemar (6); Griezmann (6), Morata (6)
Substitutes: Luis (5), Vitolo (5), Kalinic (5)
STAR MAN – It was telling of Atletico’s lack of outfield quality in the game that goalkeeper Jan Oblak was arguably Los Rojiblancos’ standout performer on Sunday. The Slovakian produced a typically fine save to deny Real Betis from taking an early lead in the game, and could not have done anything to prevent Canales’ penalty from hitting the back of the net.
WORST PLAYER – Filipe Luis struggled to get up to speed at the necessary rate after coming on as a halftime substitute and was guilty of careless defending as his handball handed Real Betis a penalty to take the lead in the second half.
Atletico host local rivals Real Madrid in a huge La Liga clash at the Wanda Metropolitano next Saturday, with Los Blancos one place behind Simeone’s side in the table and both teams looking to make up ground on leaders Barcelona in the race for the title.