Antoine Griezmann Saves Atletico Madrid with Late Equaliser vs. Real Madrid

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MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 08: Antoine Griezmann of Atletico de Madrid scores their opening goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 8, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Featured ColumnistApril 8, 2017

Antoine Griezmann scored a priceless equaliser five minutes from time to salvage a point for Atletico Madrid and dent Real Madrid’s title hopes after a 1-1 draw in the derby at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

had put La Liga’s leaders in front on 52 minutes, but Atleti battled back to leave Los Blancos just three points clear of second-placed Barcelona. The Blaugrana can move level on points at the top with a win over Malaga later today.

Real manager Zinedine Zidane restored the famed front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and . Meanwhile, Atleti trusted alongside Griezmann in attack, per La Liga’s official Twitter account:

Los Blancos’ starting XI was also notable for the inclusion of Casemiro. The Brazilian midfield destroyer is something of a good luck charm for Real, according to OptaJose:

ESPN’s Dermot Corrigan described how Atletico settled into a familiar 4-4-2 shape after kick-off:

It was the hosts who had the better of a cagey first half. Real created two chances in quick succession starting on 27 minutes. First, a slick combination between Karim Benzema and Ronaldo allowed the former to shoot low, but Jan Oblak saved well.

Yahoo Sport UK’s Andrew Gaffney lauded Benzema’s contribution:

The home side should have been in front on 30 minutes when Luka Modric played Ronaldo through. His dink over Oblak seemed destined for the back of the net until Stefan Savic acrobatically cleared off the line.

Ronaldo’s anguished expression said it all:

Atleti couldn’t muster much on the break but nearly profited from an uncharacteristic gaffe from Sergio Ramos seven minutes before the break. The aggressive centre-back played the ball straight to Griezmann, who sprinted clear and forced Keylor Navas into a solid save.

It was the best of the action from a fairly turgid half.

Real went in front seven minutes after the break when Toni Kroos lofted a free-kick onto the head of Pepe, who expertly guided the ball beyond Oblak. For Kroos, the assist confirmed him as the most prolific supplier of goals in Spain’s top flight this season, according to Squawka Football:

As for Pepe, he has made a habit of scoring with his head in front of the Los Merengues faithful:

Scoring with headers has been a common theme for a Real squad on a lengthy goal run, per Sky Sports Statto:

Ironically, the goal provider and scorer were involved in an ugly clash just after hour mark, when Kroos collided with the man he’d assisted earlier. The result was Pepe being forced off with injury in favour of Nacho.

Atletico needed to force the issue but weren’t seeing enough of the ball. In particular, Koke and Gabi weren’t exerting any influence in the passing, giving possession away too cheaply on the rare occasions they had it.

Simeone decided for a more direct approach, so he introduced Angel Correa for midfield workhorse Saul. With an extra forward on the pitch, Atleti tried long balls into the channels to release Griezmann and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco in behind, but Real held firm.

Zidane’s countermove was to bring on Isco for Kroos, who had been the subject of some fierce challenges since laying on the goal. Simeone wanted more impetus in attack, but found his bench lacking, per Corrigan:

However, it was the Atleti manager’s gambit that paid off when Correa slid a ball in for Griezmman, who finished in style five minutes from time.

The former Real Sociedad man has made a habit of scoring at the Bernabeu:

It could be advantage Barca in the title race after Griezmann’s late strike, but the Blaugrana need to seal a win later on Saturday.

Post-match reaction to follow.  

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