The first leg finished in a 1-1 draw. It was their fourth draw in a row meaning an Atletico win or scoreless draw would be enough to take Diego Simeone’s men through to the next round. That could be easier said than done though as Girona have a habit of getting a result against Atletico Madrid.
In fact, an implacable Girona team display at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was enough to inflict Atleti’s earliest Copa del Rey exist in seven years and qualify for the next round. Griezmann thought he had put Atletico through, assisting and scoring on the night but Seydou Doumbia’s 88 minutes equalizer knocked Los Rojiblancos out on away goals. In this tactical analysis, we will use statistics to identify what were the key points to this astonishing result.
ATLETICO MADRID XI (4-4-2): Antonio Adán (GK); Arias, Giménez, Godín, Juanfran (Lucas Hernandez 67’); Koke (Griezmann 61’), Saúl Niguez (Rodri 56’), Thomas Partey, Thomas Lemar; Correa, Kalinić.
Goals: Kalinić 12’, Correa 66’, Griezmann 84’
GIRONA XI (3-5-2): Iraizoz (GK); Ramalho, Espinosa, Muniesa, Porro; Granell (Pons 73’); Luiz, Valery, Lozano (Doumbia 68’); Stuani (Garcia 82’).
Goals: Fernández 37’, Stuani 60’, Doumbia 88’
Atletico Madrid Analysis
Diego Simeone made three changes compared to the team that played the first leg. Antoine Griezmann, Rodri and Francisco Montero were benched. Correa, Thomas Partey and Juanfran started. The Copa Del Rey was not Simeone’s priority, which was evident by him resting some starters for the league match this Saturday against Huesca. As a team, Los Rojiblancos were able to attack formidably against Girona but were soft defensively. Add in muscular injuries to Saúl and Vitolo and you’ve got a pretty crummy Wednesday evening.
Atletico were largely dominant throughout the 90 minutes, having more possession (56%) and having almost four times the amount of shots. However, it wasn’t enough, as they fell agonizingly short.
Fill the gap, Cholo!
For Girona’s first goal, the wings were totally free.
The 2016 Champions League finalist had a lot of possession in midfield but not really creating much going forward. In the 58th minute, Juanfran who played as left-back, gave up an unnecessary foul right outside the box, and an unmarked Stuani hit a powerful header past Adán to give the visitors their second away goal. Diego Godín fell to the ground right before the ball was played which caused confusion in the box. His plea to the referee for a foul was unsuccessful and the goal stood.
The third Girona goal came from the left (again!). Lucas Hernandez’s first involvement in the game was to get himself cautioned for a poor foul. That’s why he couldn’t intervene as he usually does.
The Griezmann dependence
In their last six games, Atletico scored ten goals, Griezmann was involved in nine with seven goals and two assists.
Shortly after Stauni’s goal, Simeone subbed on Antoine Griezmann to help shift the momentum and create chances. He made the right choice because Griezmann and his one-touch passing helped create Ángel Correa’s goal in the 66th minute.
In the 84th minute, the French talisman Griezmann finished a half-volley from a lofted Thomas Lemar pass.
Atletico can’t keep the lead (anymore)
Atlético opened the scoring in the 12th minute when Nikola Kalinić put Atlético on the board as he took down a perfect lofted pass from Godín and slotted past Gorka Iraizoz. But Diego Simeone’s men did not have control for long — in the 37th minute, Valery Fernández controlled with his chest from a clearance and the 19-year-old smashed a volley past Antonio Adán.
At 3-2 with the Wanda booming, all Atlético needed to do was sit back and hold the lead. But what was their strength seasons ago is not anymore this season. They have drawn eight in nineteen games in La Liga. Sometimes they conceded goals in matches they had under control like against Barcelona.
The ecstasy of what seemed like the winning goal in the 84th minute didn’t last long. Four minutes later, after a good play on the right from Garcia who got his head up and played a nicely weighted pass into the path on Doumbia, who placed the ball right-footed, through the legs of Atletico defender and into the bottom corner.
As in the first leg, Girona lacked concentration in the first quarter of the game. They conceded goals in 9th and 11th minute respectively. Eusebio has to rectify this because sometimes an early opening goal can set the tone for an entire game. When the Croatian striker scored, it came from his second run in twelve minutes behind the defensive line. They had tried to open the game up but that was just leaving them vulnerable on the counter-attack, a domain not really effective for Atletico, with only one counter-attacking goal this season in La Liga.
One time Middlesborough disappointment and now apparent Barcelona target, Christian Stuani leads the line for Girona in what looks to be attacking line-up. The Uruguayan striker rose highest of all and powered his header (as usually) into the bottom right corner.
This season 29% of Girona’s goals have come from set-pieces. A comprehensible stat when you have these kinds of players who are very good in the air.
There are quite notable facts in this game for Girona, Eusebio Sacristan’s men played a high defensive line and were saved by VAR twice on two registered offsides. There was also a place in the starting line-up for Manchester City loanee Douglas Luiz who completed 97% of his passes.
Only three teams have scored twice at Wanda Metropolitano, Espanyol last season in a 2-0 win, Sevilla in a 2-1 in Copa del Rey, Atheltic and Eibar scored twice too. But no opponents have scored 3 goals in this tremendous stadium until this game.
It was the first time Atletico have been eliminated in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey since Cholo has been the coach. Despite this elimination, the Argentine manager was adamant that his side put in a strong performance. He added:
“Sometimes you play well and do not advance (to the next round); I prefer to play badly and always go through.”
Winning while playing badly is a situation that occurred in the past versus another catalan team (Espanyol).
Now that Simeone’s side are out of the Copa del Rey, it gives them one fewer competitions to worry about as they approach a crucial part of the season. Atletico’s main focus remains La Liga, where they are second, five points behind leaders Barcelona. In February, they will also face a two-legged tie in the Champions League Round of 16, where they face Italian champions Juventus, which have just won the Italian Supercup.
Atletico Madrid were looking to win the Copa del Rey for the first time in six years, but their wait goes on after Wednesday’s result. Girona now advance to the quarter-finals, which is the furthest they have ever gone in their history.
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