Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Atletico Madrid: Three takeaways from the San Mames stalemate

Atletico Madrid players celebrate (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Atletico Madrid players celebrate (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Atletico Madrid huffed and puffed to another draw against the gritty Basques

For the 13th time this season, Atletico Madrid were forced to settle for another stalemate in the league, a club record.

The latest share of the spoils came at San Mames where Diego Costa cancelled out Iker Munain’s opener for Athletic Bilbao in a closely contested clash, their first as the season reconvened.

The draw leaves the Rojiblancos just a point adrift of the fourth and final Champions League place whereas the Basques remain rooted at 10th. Here are some of the takeaways from the match:

Costa in tip-top condition for the league run-in

More from La Liga

After what’s been an erratic season, Atletico Madrid needed Diego Costa to be in fine fettle if they were to somehow slip into Champions League robes before the conclusion. And looks like the Spaniard has come prepared. He not only appeared to be in good shape, but also had a top game and snapped his run of six games without a goal.

Against the run of play, Koke sauntered towards the area and played a pinpoint through ball for the 27-year old to nonchalantly finish beyond Unai Simon. For someone who has desperately lacked the cutting edge to kill off chances this term, that should be a massive breather. If he keeps this up till the end, then maybe the Rojiblancos can plug the gap between them and the Champions League spots.

Simeone’s subpar substitutions

Like several other leagues around Europe, the La Liga too will allow five substitutions till the season runs its course. Simeone exercised this power to full effect in the match, but his choices failed to make any difference. The introduction of Alvaro Morata was supposed to fire up the attack, but he was virtually non-existent.

Angel Correa looked like every bit of a player who’s just recovered from a knock, whereas Thomas Lemar continued to disappoint. Besides a few short passes here and there, there was nothing to write home about. The intent was clear – Rojiblancos were pushing for a winner, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Perhaps, maybe its time for El Cholo to turn towards the young guns and inject some fresh legs?

The likes of Sergio Camello and Rodrigo Riquelme were once again left waiting in the wings. They’ve been called up to the matchday squad a couple of times even before this, but have played only 23 and 12 minutes each respectively. Given the promise they’ve shown with the B-side, as well as Atletico Madrid’s congested fixture list for the next 30 days, it would be wise of Simeone to play them more often.

Can the Basques keep up this form?

Considering how the team has been performing since December, this was a marked improvement. Even though goals were difficult to source once again like its been all season, Athletic showed great character and managed to create relatively more chances. They took the game to the visitors, and deservedly went ahead through Iker Munain’s toe-poke finish.

Arsenal vs Man City: 5 key players for Arteta. dark. Next

Even though Atletico Madrid almost immediately restored parity, the hosts appeared to be the better side to score the next goal, making conscientious efforts to create opportunities. Now, the objective should be to build on this performance and more importantly, translate those opportunities into goals if they’re still hoping for a Europa League place.