Diego Simeone accepts fault as Atletico fall: 'I lost the game, not the players'
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone took responsibility on himself and admitted to mistakes after his team were beaten 2-1 at Villarreal in Sunday afternoon's La Liga clash to all but end their chances of catching Barcelona in the title race.
Atletico were in control for much of the game at the Estadio de la Ceramica, and went ahead on 20 minutes when Antoine Griezmann converted from the spot himself after the officials ruled the France international was knocked over in the area chasing a Diego Costa knockdown.
Koke also hit the post as the visitors continued to edge the first half. Simeone's side sat back to defend their lead after the break, and Griezmann was replaced by holding midfielder Gabi with 10 minutes remaining.
Moments later Villarreal replacement Enes Unal equalised with a superb glancing header at a corner, and the Manchester City loanee then steered in a 92nd-minute winner when Simeone's side were again caught out at a set piece.
Simeone said in his postmatch news conference that he could not blame the effort put in by players who were in Europa League action in Moscow on Thursday evening.
"I have the feeling that I lost the game today, not the players," Simeone said. "They made a great effort and I could not help them with my decisions. Maybe I made a mistake."
Simeone said his team had been managing a tight game well until the equaliser.
"It was an intense game, between two similar teams," he said. "In the second half we managed the game well. And in two situations they took a game that had been closed. The small details fell their way."
Atletico remain in second place in the table, but now 11 points behind leaders Barcelona with nine games remaining.
Asked if his team had said goodbye to any chance of catching the Catalans, Simeone said: "We have to pick up a lot of points, and then in the last five games we will see where we are."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan