LA LIGA | ATLÉTICO 2 GRANADA 0
Atlético take a Liga breather
Despite Granada's marked improvement, Diego Simeone's side took three points via a penalty and a deflected effort without exerting themselves.
It was a "Godín moment" – one of those wonderful attacks of impulsiveness that grab the Uruguayan from time to time when he's bored of dominating at the back and the spirit of the forward he once was possesses him. The Atlético defender ensured that his side weren't made to suffer under iron skies in the capital. With Barça and Madrid both playing at half steam, Atlético never relinquished control of the situation against a Granada side that were much better than a run of 15 games without a win suggested. But in the end the classics won out: a forward run from Godín, which ended in a penalty converted by Mario Mandzukic; and a goal from Raúl García that he knew little about, the ball hitting his back and beating Oier in the Granada goal. Without shining, Atlético remain on track. That's what games like Sunday's are about.
The opening half hour belonged to Granada, who experienced the typical resurrection that comes with a change of manager. Iturra bossed the midfield, where for Atleti Tiago's every absence becomes a soap opera, while Piti was finally reminiscent of his incarnation at Rayo. But Granada's brightest spark was Robert Ibáñez, who arrived on loan from Valencia during the week. The young winger displayed speed, trickery and bravery, launching several counter attacks and forcing both Godín and Mario Suárez into yellow card offences. It was a fine debut.
But there are problems that no change of manager can solve. With Joseba Aguado standing in, as with his predecessor Joaquín Caparrós, Granada believe goals and the Loch Ness Monster are as steeped in reality as each other. Youssef El-Arabi is the personification of the problem: he is to strikers what Lost was to television series – brilliant until the end spoils the whole show. An example came on 10 minutes, when the Moroccan spotted Miguel Ángel Moyá off his line and headed a cross from Allan Nyom with an assassin's intent. It went wide, of course. That was Granada's best chance, but not their last. Moyá and the crossbar managed to prevent Piti's shot from spiralling in and Iturra chanced his arm in front of goal.
Atlético, meanwhile, couldn't string two passes together, rendering the experiment of playing Fernando Torres with Mandzukic irrelevant. They fought, but the ball rarely reached their area of operation. On 33 minutes, Godín popped up with the answer. The Uruguayan nicked the ball on the edge of his own area and moved it to Arda to counter. Instead of leaving it at that, Godín sprinted forward like a man late for date with a supermodel. Mandzukic fed Torres and he played a neat ball into the box, where Abdoul Sissoko hauled down Godín, the man who shouldn't have been there. Mandzukic buried the spot kick with surgical precision.
Before the break Atlético played their best stuff, especially down the right where the genius of Arda and the persistence of Juanfran turned it into a runway towards goal. Torres, who again showed signs of rediscovering his former self, almost finished the game off but needed an extra boot size. Granada drew breath in the dressing room and mystery played a greater role in the second half.
That said, a rather dull mystery: more like a game of Cluedo with your grandfather than a Hitchcock film. Atlético dominated but with their minds elsewhere, quite probably in the Camp Nou. Granada seemed unsure whether they were going for a point or just trying to keep the score at 1-0, operating mostly in no-man's land. The slow ticking of the clock only produced one scare for the home crowd: a great move by Lass that was, of course, not finished off by El-Arabi. That is the key point: El-Arabi is Hyde to Raúl García's Jekyll. In the 89th minute Arda played a fantastic move and squared for the Navarran, whose back provided the final touch.
For Atlético it was mission accomplished, albeit to the accompaniment of yawns.