Diego Simeone hails Atletico for 'never giving up,' earning 'impossible' draw
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said his team "never give up" after they began the La Liga season by fighting back to get a 2-2 draw at newly promoted Girona, even after star attacker Antoine Griezmann had been sent off.
Playing their first ever Primera Division game, Girona deservedly took control when ex-Middlesbrough striker Cristhian Stuani scored two excellent headers in three minutes midway through the first half.
Atletico were being completely outplayed, and their task grew even more difficult when Griezmann was booked for diving and then immediately picked up a second yellow card for contesting the decision midway through the second period.
But substitute Angel Correa got one back with a superb solo strike, and defender Jose Maria Gimenez headed in the equaliser with just five minutes remaining.
And the Colchoneros coach told the postgame news conference that few people would have given his side a chance to get a point but even with a man down they had fought back and got an "impossible" result.
"I will stick to the positive side," Simeone said. "We had a bad first half, but a very good first half. At 2-0 down many people would have thought the game over, then even more with 10 players.
"The team have kept alive what we have had through these years with them. That fire, that spirit of never giving up, keeping going right until the end -- we got a result in the end which in the first half looked impossible."
Simeone said that changes made to the team in the second half, especially the entrance of attacker Correa for full-back Juanfran, had altered the game.
"They were better than us in the first half," he said. "But we thought we needed to score, and that would naturally bring another. The entrance of Correa changed the game.
"We had chances, including the possible penalty against Griezmann. [Luciano] Vietto had a chance that he fired over. We were defending man to man with three at the back against their front three. It was what the game needed in that moment. It went very well."
Atletico's next two games are also on the road, at Las Palmas and Valencia, as final preparations are still continuing at their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
The Frenchman will miss at least one of those matches, or possibly both, depending on what Griezmann said to referee Juan Martinez Munuera.
Asked what he had said to Griezmann after the game, the Atletico coach responded shortly, saying "I have not spoken with him," before moving onto the next question.