Friday, September 21

La Liga

Live Commentary: AtleticoAtletico Madrid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

Relive Sports Mole's live coverage of the La Liga clash between Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, which finished 2-0.

Atletico Madrid returned to within seven points of La Liga leaders Barcelona courtesy of a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday afternoon.

Kevin Gameiro came off the bench to make the breakthrough before Diego Costa netted late on as Atletico recorded their 16th league win of the campaign, which moved them 13 points clear of fourth-placed Real Madrid.

Read how it all unfolded in Sports Mole's minute-by-minute live commentary of the action below.

Afternoon all! Sports Mole's live La Liga coverage continues from the Wanda Metropolitano as Atletico Madrid welcome Athletic Bilbao. Atletico will be looking to return to within seven points of league leaders Barcelona, and they will enter the match off the back of three straight league wins. Stay tuned for what should be an interesting game of football from the Spanish capital.
Atletico recorded a 2-1 victory over Bilbao when they travelled to San Mames earlier this season, and were 3-1 winners when the pair met at the Vicente Calderon towards the end of the 2016-17 campaign. It will be a tough task for Bilbao when considering that Atletico are yet to lose a league game in their new – and indeed wonderful – Wanda Metropolitano home.
Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from the Spanish capital. Both of these teams were in Europa League action on Thursday night - Atletico winning 4-1 at Copenhagen in the first leg of their last-32 tie, and Bilbao winning 3-1 at Spartak Moscow.
TEAMS!

ATLETI: Oblak; Vrsaljko, Gimenez, Lucas, Luis; Koke, Saul, Thomas, Correa; Griezmann, Costa

BILBAO: Kepa; Lekue, Nunez, Martinez, Saborit; Vesga, San Jose, Benat; Sabin, Williams, Susaeta

Atletico boss Diego Simeone has made four changes to the team that started against Copenhagen on Thursday night, with Jan Oblak, Sime Vrsaljko, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa replacing Miguel Moya, Juanfran, Diego Godin and Kevin Gameiro. Antoine Griezmann will again join Costa in the final third of the field, while Thomas Partey keeps his spot in central midfield alongside Saul Niguez.

As for Bilbao, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Miguel San Jose, Sabin Merino and Benat are among those to return following the Europa League clash in Russia. Aritz Aduriz is unavailable through suspension, however, meaning that Inaki Williams will lead the line with support from Sabin Merino and Markel Susaeta. A suspension also sees Raul Garcia miss the chance to face his former club.
So there we have it. The two teams are in, and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff in the Spanish capital. I shall speak about the away side a little bit later, but let's start with Atletico. A win for Diego Simeone's side this afternoon would see them return to within seven points of league leaders Barcelona, who stretched their advantage to 10 with a 2-0 victory at Eibar on Saturday afternoon.
Atletico have won 15, drawn seven and lost just one of their 23 leage matches this season – scoring 34 times and conceding just nine. They have won each of their last three in La Liga without shipping a goal, and are yet to lose a league game on home soil this season – winning seven of their 11 fixtures.
Atletico actually sit six points clear of third-placed Valencia, and 10 clear of fourth-placed Real Madrid, who face Real Betis tonight. It is going to be difficult to catch Barcelona in the final weeks of the campaign, but second would be seen as an impressive campaign. Indeed, breaking up Barcelona and Real Madrid is not exactly the easiest of talks for those in Spain's top flight.
Simeone's side were far from convincing away to basement side Malaga last weekend, but an early strike from Griezmann proved enough to secure all the points. That win followed a 1-0 success over Valencia, and it would be fair to say that Atletico are grinding our victories rather than blowing teams away.
In terms of what is ahead for Atletico, the Madrid giants will host Copenhagen in the second leg of their last-32 Europa League clash on Thursday night, before travelling to Sevilla in the league on February 25. The month will then end with a home game against Leganes, before the small matter of a trip to Barcelona on March 4. It is a big few weeks for Simeone's side, that is for sure!
As for Bilbao, the Basque club are having a very inconsistent season. Indeed, they have only won six of their 23 league fixtures, with a total of 28 points leaving them in 14th position in the table. Ten points separate them from the relegation zone, but Bilbao are nine points off the top six, and it would take some effort to push into a European place in the final weeks of the season.
It was always going to be tough for new boss Jose Angel Ziganda to replace Ernesto Valverde, who left at the end of last season to take charge of Barcelona. Bilbao have not actually won in the league since the start of last month, but four of their last five in Spain's top flight have finished level.
Indeed, they will enter this match off the back of a goalless home draw with Las Palmas. Bilbao have only won three of their 12 away league games this season, but they have collected four draws, and certainly have the capabilities of causing Atletico some problems in this match.
Here we go then - both sets of players have joined us on the pitch ahead of kickoff in Madrid. Atletico will fancy their chances of collecting all three points this afternoon, but Bilbao - even without a couple of key players - have plenty of talent in their XI. Let's hope for a good game!
KICKOFF! Atletico kick things off in the capital...
... it must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium this afternoon. The home supporters have turned out in their numbers, and will be hoping to see their team pick up another three points. You do get the feeling that Bilbao could be in for a tough 90 minutes here.
Half-chance for the home side as Luis delivers a dangerous cross into the Bilbao box, but Nunez is on hand to make contact ahead of Costa. Good pressure from Atletico in the first four minutes.
Atletico again work the ball into a wide area - this time down the right - but Correa's low cross is gathered by Kepa. Bilbao have not really had the chance to settle on the ball thus far here.
Still goalless, but good pressure from Atletico as the home side continue to force the issue in the final third. Costa has been putting himself about - as expected - but no clear chances thus far here.
Atletico break clear on the counter-attack, with Griezmann running left and Costa right, but San Jose is on hand to make a fine challenge to deny the advancing Saul. Bilbao cannot keep the ball though, and the home side will press numbers into the final third once again here.
Atletico win a free kick in a dangerous area as Vesga brings Saul to the deck...
... CHANCE! Gimenez meets Griezmann's free kick, and the centre-back turns the ball just wide of the far post. Super routine, and Bilbao are fortunate to still be level here.
We have not seen too much from the likes of Williams and Susaeta in the opening 16 minutes of this match, with Bilbao struggling to break out of their own half against the dominant home side.
Half-chance for Bilbao as Martinez throws himself at a cross inside the Atletico box, but the ball bounces off the centre-back before dropping out of play. Still goalless with 18 minutes played.
Penalty shout for Atletico as Costa goes down inside the box under a challenge from Lekue, but the referee is not interested. The home supporters are not pleased, and neither is Costa!
Really good work from Williams as the Bilbao forward takes the pressure off his side by winning a free kick just inside the away team's half of the field. Bilbao really need some relief here.
Plenty happening in terms of challenges at the moment as Martinez comes across to deny Costa, who is becoming a little bit frustrated. The tempo has been raised by both teams in Madrid.
Atletico are dominant here as they continue to pass and probe in the final third of the field. Martinez has been excellent for Bilbao at the heart of their defence, but surely this pressure will tell at some point. Costa and Griezmann continue to link well, while Correa remains a big threat.
Just a reminder that Real Madrid are in action away to Real Betis tonight, and you can follow live coverage of that one with us from 6.45pm UK time. Back to the Wanda, and Atletico are still being frustrated by a well-drilled Bilbao side. Not too many clear chances to report this afternoon.
Smart defending from Lucas as the Atletico centre-back manages to beat Williams to a Lekue cross inside the home team's penalty box. Williams has not had much to feed on in the opening 30 minutes, and he might have to wait a while before he sees the ball once again. Still goalless here.
Godin was just stripped and ready to come on, but Lucas - who had been injured - is back on the field; Godin sits down and puts his tracksuit top back on! The Uruguayan stays a sub for now.
Half-chance for the home side as Correa dances into a dangerous area before poking a low cross into the Bilbao box, but neither Griezmann nor Costa react in time to tap home.
Still no yellow card in this match, despite Lekue almost taking Lucas's head off with a challenge! The referee has allowed things to flow as much as possible, but surely the first booking will soon arrive. My money is on Costa, who has just had a go at the linesman after being ruled offside.
BOOKING! Oh how terrific. That has just happened. Costa (Atletico) is booked for having a go at the linesman following his latest offside call. Mystic meg!
Koke delivers a low cross into the Bilbao box, but once again there are no takers, and Kepa allows the ball to drift behind for a Bilbao goal kick. Still goalless with 38 minutes on the clock here.
BOOKING! Benat (Bilbao) is booked for a poor challenge on Griezmann.
Correa has perhaps been Atletico's most dangerous player in the opening 43 minutes of this match. I have also just been made aware that he picked up a booking in the 17th minute of this match. That was not made clear at the time, but he was carded for a trip on Vesga.
Good pressure from Bilbao in the latter stages of the first period as they force their first corner of the match. Griezmann flicks the ball towards the far post where Williams is waiting, and the forward turns his effort wide of the post. Still goalless as we head for the half-time interval at the Wanda.
We are into the first of two additional minutes at the end of the first period.
San Jose strikes one from distance, but his effort was always too high.
Williams heads over from a Sabin cross as Bilbao finish the first period on the front foot.
HALF-TIME: Atletico 0-0 Bilbao
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with the two teams level at 0-0. In truth, it has not been the most entertaining of matches. Atletico shaded it for the first 40 minutes or so, but Bilbao started to open up in the final stages of the first 45 minutes at the Wanda.
STATISTICS! Atletico shaded the first-half possession with 57%, while they had three attempts, but failed to hit the target. Bilbao also had three attempts without managing to force Oblak into a save. Three yellow cards to report - Correa and Costa for the home side, and Benat for the Basque visitors.
BENCH WATCH! Bilbao boss Ziganda has a number of attacking options on his bench this afternoon, with the likes of De Marcos, Rico and Kike Sola all available for the visitors. Atletico, meanwhile, have options in the shape of Carrasco, Gabi, Gameiro, Fernando Torres and Vitolo.
RESTART! Bilbao resume the action here...
... ATLETICO SUB! Godin replaces Hernandez for the home side.
Costa goes down inside the Bilbao box under pressure from Nunez, but the referee is not interested. If that was a dive then maybe the striker should have had a second yellow there!
You do get the feeling that one goal could be enough to win this match. As expected, Atletico have started the second period on the front foot, but Bilbao showed some attacking intent in the latter stages of the first half, and Williams certainly has the pace to cause all sorts of problems here.
CHANCE! Costa meets a cross from Vrsaljko, but his powerful strike is well held by Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa. Much better from Costa, who got really good contact on the ball.
Bilbao continue to frustrate the home side as Saul is forced to go back on two separate occasions following pressure from San Jose and Vesga, who are doing a good job in the middle of the park.
Pass, pass, pass from Atletico as they look to work the ball into a shooting position here.
Nunez has taken a whack from Costa's elbow, and the Bilbao centre-back has blood coming from his nose. Costa needs to be so careful here after picking up a booking in the first period.
CHANCE! Big chance for Costa as the Spain international meets a flicked header from Koke, but the striker's header is over the crossbar. Another opportunity comes and goes!
ATLETICO SUB! Gameiro replaces Koke for the home side.
SAVE! Sharp hands from Kepa to keep out a long-range strike from Correa.
BOOKING! Luis (Atletico) is booked for a poor challenge on Susaeta.
Half-chance for the home side as Griezmann drives into a dangerous area before having a strike, but his effort was always high and wide. Bilbao are preparing to make their first change here.
BILBAO SUB! Iturraspe replaces Benat for the away side.
Oblak is a very lucky man after coming out his goal to clear, and getting tied up! Williams pounces in an attempt to steal the ball, but the stopper just about manages to make the clearance.
GOAL! Atletico 1-0 Bilbao (Gameiro)
Atletico finally make the breakthrough in the 67th minute as a brilliant move ends with Griezmann feeding Gameiro, who finds the bottom corner with a super effort from inside the box!
ATLETICO SUB! Gabi replaces Correa for the home side.
BOOKING! Nunez (Bilbao) is booked for a rash challenge on Griezmann.
Thomas takes the resulting free kick, but his set piece was always too high.
BILBAO SUB! Cordoba replaces Vesga for the away side.
Little over 15 minutes of the second period remaining, and Atletico are closing on yet another three points. Bilbao have just had not created enough chances in the second 45 minutes here.
Half-chance for the home side as Godin meets a corner from Griezmann, but the centre-back's header drops over the crossbar. Not too much from Bilbao in the last few minutes here.
Atletico are very comfortable at the moment as they continue to dominate the ball. There is still time for Bilbao to score, but that simply does not look like happening as things stand here.
GOAL! Atletico 2-0 Bilbao (Costa)
Atletico secure all three points as Costa races into the Bilbao box before finding the bottom corner with a fine finish. Costa has his second league goal since returning to the Spanish outfit.
Atletico are heading for their 16th league win of the campaign, and they are again moving to within seven points of league leaders Barcelona. The title race in Spain is not over quite yet.
Atletico are full of it at the moment as Costa feeds Gameiro inside the Bilbao box; the Frenchman returns the favour, but Nunez is on hand to make the clearance as the visitors continue to wobble.
Bilbao will be pleased when the final whistle is blown. The visitors have really struggled in the second period after frustrating Atletico for large periods of the first 45 minutes in Madrid.
I should not think that there will be too much added time at the end of the 90 minutes. Atletico currently have the ball inside Bilbao's half of the field as we head for the final moments here.
Smart defending from Martinez as the Bilbao centre-back clears a low cross from Luis.
We are into the first of three additional minutes at the end of the 90 here.
Atletico are going to return to within seven points of league leaders Barcelona, while Simeone's side are going to move 13 points clear of fourth-placed Real Madrid, which is incredible.
FULL-TIME: Atletico 2-0 Bilbao
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Atletico running out 2-0 winners over Bilbao in Madrid. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live coverage once again. Until next time!

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