PALMA (AFP) – Antoine Griezmann’s strike earned Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao to help Diego Simeone’s side leapfrog their Basque opponents and move third in La Liga on Saturday.
Atletico’s goal lived a charmed life in the final stages, thanks to brilliant defending from Reinildo Mandava and some impressive saves from Ivo Grbic, who had to come on for the injured Jan Oblak.
Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic, now fourth, were awarded a late penalty for handball against Reinildo, but it was cancelled after the officials spotted the ball had struck the defender on the face.
Griezmann, who missed a penalty and various chances during two frustrating matches against Club Brugge in the Champions League, was delighted to net the winner.
“All the team did incredible work, that’s us, all running together, attacking together, we it very well,” said the forward.
“We did it against Club Brugge too but today with a bit of luck, the ball went in.
“Against Brugge there was the penalty, and then at home I had so many chances. I really wanted to score, I really want to help the team with goals and today we’ve taken three points that we needed, and there we are, up the table.
“Tomorrow I’ll be happy because my boy will ask me if I scored a goal, and I’ll be able to tell him – yes.”
Athletic’s Inaki Williams missed a free header early on, while Alvaro Morata had a goal disallowed for a foul.
The home fans, encouraged by their team’s strong start to the season, had San Mames rocking during half-time.
Griezmann quickly spoiled the party atmosphere when he stroked home in the 47th minute following a cut-back from Alvaro Morata.
The 31-year-old completed a century of La Liga goals for Atletico, only the sixth player to do so in the club’s history.
Atletico were dealt an apparent blow when Oblak went off injured, appearing to hurt his shoulder after a collision with Alex Berenguer earlier in the half.
However, his replacement Grbic made two fine saves before referee Jorge Figueroa Vazquez pointed to the penalty spot.
Reinildo was accused of a handball but the Mozambican blocked Oier Zarraga’s drive with his face and it was scrapped.
Six minutes into stoppage time Athletic were poised to level but Reinildo made another sublime block to deny Raul Garcia just a couple of yards out.
“We were really looking forward to the game, there was a great atmosphere and we wanted to test ourselves against a team like Atletico,” said Valverde.
“We were good. Honestly, from my team’s point of view, we might not have lost this game. Beating us is complicated. (But) we have to learn from it.”