Ousted champions´ grip on top-four spot loosened – XenBet

Atletico Madrid missed the chance to strengthen their grip on a Champions League qualification place after they slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

On the day Atletico saw their LaLiga crown taken by bitter rivals Real Madrid, Diego Simeone’s men started sluggishly and were duly punished inside 10 minutes when Mario Hermoso turned Inaki Williams’ cross into his own net.

Williams, who was a constant threat, then sealed all three points in the 56th minute from the penalty spot. 

Atletico remain in fourth, yet fifth-placed Real Betis can cut the gap to just a point if they overcome Getafe on Monday. Athletic, meanwhile, remain eighth.

1-0 I #AthleticAtleti #AthleticClub  pic.twitter.com/VEMw8GRD3z

— Athletic Club (@Athletic_en) April 30, 2022

Athletic’s bright start was rewarded in the eighth minute when Hermoso deflected Williams’ cross past Jan Oblak after the forward outmuscled Jose Gimenez.

Williams came agonisingly close to scoring for himself soon after, the 27-year-old’s inswinging cross from the left missing everyone and bouncing off Oblak’s left-hand post.

Geoffrey Kondogbia flashed wide as Atleti woke from their slumber shortly before the interval, while Yannick Carrasco saw an effort deflected just past Unai Simon’s upright after a surging run.

Athletic doubled their advantage a few moments after Antoine Griezmann had thundered a free-kick against the crossbar, Williams clipping his spot-kick down the middle after Hector Herrera had brought down Iker Muniain just inside the area. 

Muniain and Nico Williams were denied in quick succession by Oblak as Athletic looked to add further gloss to the scoreline, while Angel Correa saw an effort deflected against the post deep into stoppage time for luckless Atletico.

What does it mean? Atletico have top-four fight on their hands

A run of seven victories in their previous nine games had lifted Atletico firmly into top-four contention.

Yet, this sluggish defeat will have given the likes of Betis and Real Sociedad hope that they can catch them in the final weeks of the season, especially given Los Colchoneros face a tough run-in that sees them play champions Madrid, Sevilla and La Real in three of their four remaining games.

Simeone’s men have now lost on their past three visits to Basque opponents in LaLiga, having won their previous three. It is the first time they have lost three in a row against such opposition since 2005.

Garcia’s landmark

He did not get on the scoresheet, but it was a landmark game for former Atletico forward Raul Garcia. The 35-year-old moved level with Real Madrid icon Raul as the third-highest appearance maker in LaLiga after Joaquin (596) and Andoni Zubizarreta (622).

Hermoso out on his own

Hermoso’s unfortunate early intervention set the tone for Atletico’s poor performance. The Spain international has now scored four own goals (two for Espanyol, two for Atleti) since the start of the 2017-18 season, which is more than any other player in LaLiga in this period.

What’s next?

Athletic host Valencia next Saturday, while Atleti face the newly crowned champions in El Derbi a day later.

Source of the article

Author: Heidi Porter