Atletico Madrid failed to keep the pressure on Spanish Primera Division leaders Barcelona as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat against relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon at Estadio Municipal El Molinon on Saturday.
In the midst of a relegation battle, Sporting faced a daunting task against arguably one of the best defensive units in European football in the form of Atletico Madrid, but they were given hope when Diego Simeone fielded a significantly weakened starting XI.
Juanfran, Diego Godin, Gabi, Augusto Fernandez and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco were all rested after their Champions League exploits against PSV in midweek, with Simeone starting Jesus Gamez, Lucas Hernandez, Matias Kranevitter, Angel Correa and Luciano Vietto.
Unsurprisingly, it was the away side that took control of the game in the early stages, stroking the ball around with intent and confidence. The front three of Vietto, Correa and Griezmann looked lively with their pace and movement, but it didn’t last long as Sporting’s high-pressing tactics started to pay dividends.
Angel Correa was nudged off the ball in midfield, allowing the home side the chance to make ground up the left flank as Sporting’s Isma Lopez whipped in a fierce cross only to see Claudio Kranevitter slice it just over his own goal.
In the 29th minute, totally against the run of play, Ateltico took the lead – It may have been a controversial decision to award the free-kick, but there was nothing uncertain about the goal. French forward Antoine Griezmann stepped up about 20 yards out, and curled a lovely effort into the top-right corner, leaving Rojiblancos keeper Cuellar with no chance.
Despite taking the lead, Atletico were not producing a vintage performance by any means, as Sporting were all over them and looked threatening, but Simeones men held on until the break.
The second half produced some scintillating football from the un-fancied side as they put massive pressure on the Atletivo defence from the off, and they were eventually rewarded for their efforts in the 79th minute. Forward Jony ran over the ball for the set-piece and left it for Arnaldo Sanabria to hit, and the Paraguayan smashed the ball straight through the wall, inviting a slight deflection as the ball thundered into the net making it 1-1.
With the Colchoneros firmly on the back foot, there only looked like one team finding the winner and Gijon were rewarded for the impressive performance when they found it with one minute to go. The impressive Jony caused havoc on the left once again, latching on to a fine pass from Lopez and then playing the ball across the face of goal, as 20-year-old forward Carlos Castro calmly stroked the ball past a hapless Jan Oblak to send the home support into delirium.
The win moves the Abelardo Fernandez side temporarily out of the drop zone at the expense of Granada and Rayo Vallecano.