Antoine Griezmann got Atletico off to a flying start, scoring within the opening minute of play.

Atletico Madrid went back to the scene of Diego Simeone’s first game as coach six years ago and it was perhaps fitting that the game ended with a dogged 1-0 victory for Los Rojiblancos over Malaga.

Antoine Griezmann popped up with the winner with less than 40 seconds on the clock, firing in after Saul Niguez’s shot was deflected into his path. Atleti spent the subsequent 89 minutes sitting off their hosts and were good enough to keep them at bay.

Positives

Griezmann’s display was one of a man looking to prove those questioning his attitude wrong. For the moment, Atleit are just six points behind league leaders Barca. Do they dare to dream?

Negatives

Having to sit through 89 minutes of Atletico defending, with no real intention of scoring a second. Sometimes, you think this side could push on and do more.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Having listed the negatives, this would have been a dream game for Simeone. Loves to see his side dog out a result and that is exactly what they did.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Jan Oblak, 7 — Had an easy first half, barely touching the ball. Slightly busier in the second period as the home side rallied and produced a great save from a free kick just after the break.

DF Sime Vrsaljko, 6 — With Filipe Luis back in the side he was more restricted in attacking terms but did all that was asked of him defensively with the minimum of fuss.

DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 6 — Relished the physical battle against Brown Ideye and came out on top, keeping the Nigerian quiet. A bit guilty of being too elaborate in possession at times.

DF Lucas Hernandez, 7 — Could the injuries to Diego Godin and Stefan Savic be the making of Lucas? On this evidence, yes. Was calm, composed and did everything he had to in a fine display.

DF Filipe Luis, 7 — A welcome return for the Brazilian, who started his first match in 2018 after injury looking like he had never been away. Was often the side’s principal attacking outlet and was faultless at the back.

MF Koke, 6 — One of those games where he had to do a lot of unseen work given how Atleti were content to sit on their narrow lead. Covered a lot of ground and always offered himself as an outlet.

Atletico Madrid celebrate their 1-0 win over Malaga in La Liga.
It wasn’t pretty but Atletico Madrid grinded out a trademark 1-0 victory away to Malaga.

MF Gabi, 6 — Helped Los Colchoneros remain comfortable in the middle of the park. Looks tired and was subbed after the break. Perhaps time for a week off given the gruelling schedule.

MF Saul Niguez, 6 — It was his shot deflected into Griezmann’s path, so he might be claiming the assist. Another who was solid, if unspectacular, helping things tick over and ensure three points were going back to the Spanish capital.

MF Vitolo, 5 — Still not quite happening for him and he struggled to link up with his teammates. Committed a lot of fouls in dangerous positions, too. Hooked just after the break.

FW Antoine Griezmann, 8 — A definitive response to the disgruntled fans who questioned him last week. Showed great anticipation and composure to open the scoring early on and a nice gesture to hold up the shirt of a young player — and Atleti fan — who recently passed away. Tireless in his running for the side. Joined the midfield and helped batten down the hatches as Malaga came out revved up after the break.

FW Diego Costa, 6 — Another who was decent without ever doing too much. Work rate cannot be faulted but was not on the same wavelength as the rest of his teammates today.

Substitutes

MF Angel Correa (for Vitolo), 6 — Given the way the game was going was unable to contribute much more than the man he replaced. Got his feet all tangled up bearing down on goal late on when he should have scored.

MF Thomas Partey (for Gabi), 6 — Brought fresh legs to the middle of the park for the final 20 minutes.

FW Fernando Torres (for Costa), NR — Wonderful skill and pace to start a late breakaway. Proved himself a useful outlet and held the ball up well during the last quarter of an hour.

Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.


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