SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – Two first-half headers by Alvaro Morata were what it took to give Atletico Madrid the win over Real Sociedad on Sunday, even though the capital squad was left short-handed after Koke was expelled in the 61st minute after two yellow cards.
Real Sociedad handled the ball better – and controlled it for longer – at the start of the match, the Atletico lay in wait and managed to blank its rival.
A shot by Mikel Oyarzabal that was intercepted without any problem by goaltender Oblak was the only danger posed near Atletico’s net during the entire first half in a match that featured lengthy ball-control periods.
Morata, on loan from England’s Chelsea, and who had notched his first tally for the capital club in its 2-0 victory over Villarreal last week, knocked in a close-in header in the 29th minute after a corner kick that was sent to him by team captain Diego Godin, and just three minutes later it was Morata again on another header after a free kick by Koke.
Koke was handed his first yellow card near the end of the first half and then collected his second in the 61st minute, leaving Diego Simeone’s boys down a man for the last half hour of play.
It didn’t seem to make any different though, with Atleti handling the situation calmly and well, and never facing any significant danger from the home team.
After the match, Simeone said that although the shorthanded stint was “not comfortable,” given that Real had started the game “very well,” his squad picked up in its ball movement and control and created a number of scoring chances, and “We were very good at the end of the first half.”
With the win, Atletico is now five points ahead of third-placed Real Madrid with 53 points and “just” seven behind La Liga leader Barcelona, after the latter’s 1-0 win over Los Blancos on Saturday.
Real Sociedad suffered a dire blow when its key striker – Fillian Jose – had to leave the pitch after being injured in the 26th minute, and from that point forward, Atletico had little trouble dominating the match with Morata’s goals coming just minutes later and its lead never being threatened from then on.
When Koke was expelled in the 61st minute, the Basque squad still had time to try and mount a comeback, with Anoeta picking up the pace, but it wasn’t enough to get it on the board even though the last few minutes were pretty intense.
The match was played at Anoeta Stadium before some 26,000 fans and was the host team’s first loss in 11 matches under new coach Imanol Alguacil, who came on board in December.