Cometh the hour, cometh that man Antoine Griezmann once more to deliver a vital three points in Atletico Madrid’s chase to secure Champions League football at the new Wanda Metropolitano next season.
The visitors had been wasteful in front of goal at lowly Granada, Griezmann included, for much of the 90 minutes. However, the Frenchman stopped to head home Koke’s cross for his 21st goal of the season six minutes from time to deliver a deserved if hard-fought 1-0 win for Diego Simeone’s men.
On top of a much-needed three points, a first clean sheet on the road in five games is a massive bonus for Simeone. While his once-rock-solid defence has crumbled in recent weeks, they stood up manfully to Granada’s early burst before the break and Jan Oblak barely had a save worthy of the name to make.
Once again the reliance on Griezmann to bail out a scrappy 1-0 win at a side in the relegation zone shows others aren’t stepping up. Thomas Partey and Nico Gaitan were given their chance to shine from the start and the fact they were subbed off says much about their respective performances.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Restricted by the unavailability of Fernando Torres, Kevin Gameiro and Gabi that even saw forgotten man Alessio Cerci handed a place on the bench. Thomas and Gaitan in no way rewarded his faith in putting them in the starting lineup, while the less said about Angel Correa’s contribution off the bench the better. However, Simeone didn’t like how open the game was becoming early in the second half and the introduction of Jose Maria Gimenez as a holding midfielder ensured Atletico were never seriously troubled on the counter-attack as they went in search of a winner.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jan Oblak, 6 — Flapped at a few crosses, but didn’t have any serious saves to make.
DF Juanfran, 6 — Made his return from injury ahead of Sime Vrsaljko and was his old solid, if unspectacular self.
DF Stefan Savic, 7 — Best performance from the Montenegrin in a long while. Solid in the air and in the tackle, his rage at the referee for making him leave the field while blood poured from his head in stoppage time said much about his commitment to the cause.
DF Diego Godin, 7 — More like his old self. Played it simple and rarely troubled.
DF Filipe Luis 8 — Outstanding. One brilliant run to waltz past three Granada defenders deserved a better reward from his teammates. Solid defensively, despite little help from Gaitan for the first hour, and also played his part in short corner for the goal.
MF Thomas Partey, 5 — The Ghanaian was drafted in for just his second league start of the season and was promptly removed at half-time by Simeone after a first half in which he seemed to complete more passes to Granada players than any of the home side.
MF Koke, 7 — Covered every blade of grass in a game that swung from end to end despite the scoreline. Had the composure to pick out Griezmann and not his other teammates who had run offside for the goal.
MF Saul Niguez, 7 — After a slow start to the campaign, coming good at the most important part of the season. Took on more defensive duty in the absence of Gabi and was a physically imposing presence in central midfield.
MF Nico Gaitan, 4 — Bar one individual run to tee up a chance for Griezmann early in the second half, you would have been forgiven for not realising he was playing.
FW Yannick Carrasco, 7 — Very unfortunate to not follow up his hat trick against Granada in October with at least one more goal against the Andalusians. The Belgian’s finishing was wayward with three good chances, but most of those he created for himself with some sensational dribbling and showed his pace to constantly get in behind the Granada defence.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 8 — Hadn’t had his best night until the goal. Uncharacteristically pulled a great chance wide on his majestic left foot early in the second half. However, all that was forgotten when he once again used his head to score the only goal.
FW Angel Correa, 3 — Often good for a goal off the bench, the Argentine instead had a nightmare. According to the statistics, he lost possession more times than any other player over the course of the 90 minutes despite only playing for 45.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 — Called into action as an auxiliary holding midfielder, Gimenez did a stellar job in stemming the flow of Granada attacks through the heart of the Atletico midfield.
DF Sime Vrsaljko, N/R — Came on late to help see out the win.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.