Antoine Griezmann, Saul Niguez lead Atletico Madrid's rout of Sociedad
Atletico Madrid made it consecutive victories in La Liga thanks to a straightforward 3-0 triumph over Real Sociedad at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday night. Diego Simeone's side needed to back up their big derby win with a victory at home and they did just that to move (temporarily at least) seven points ahead of Real Madrid in third and five points behind leaders Barcelona in the process.
Having struggled for goals this season, Atleti suddenly found their shooting boots, getting close twice in the opening moments before breaking the deadlock after seven minutes as Diego Reyes diverted Koke's cross into his own net. From there on it was clear sailing for Los Rojiblancos.
Once Saul made it 2-0 less than a minute into the second half, Simeone was able to make a number of tactical substitutions to prevent suspensions ahead of this weekend's trip to Valencia -- a win there would give Simeone & Co. an enormous boost in their quest to finish second.
Antoine Griezmann made it 3-0 just before the hour with a penalty, and his replacement Angel Correa nearly scored but a controversial offside ruling nullified it late. It didn't matter as the delighted crowd were given full value for braving a chilly night in the Spanish capital.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Jan Oblak, 6 -- Aside from one flicked header that hit the post against the run of play, Oblak looked in little danger of conceding. Tuesday made it an incredible 18 clean sheets from 27 La Liga games this season for the Slovenian.
DF Juanfran, 7 -- Didn't have to overexert himself defensively, attacking with gusto and enthusiasm down the right as he always does.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 -- An easy night at the office for the 21-year-old. Apart from a couple of clearances, he had very little to do and almost scored from a corner in the first half.
DF Diego Godin, 7 -- A booking away from incurring an automatic suspension, the Uruguayan was sensibly hooked before the hour with Sunday's trip to Valencia on the horizon. Godin dealt with what little attacking threat Sociedad could throw at him and also proved a menace at the other end, twice going close from set pieces.
DF Filipe Luis, 8 -- Easily avoided a booking to ensure he can play this weekend given the visitors' lack of attacking intent. Built on a very good performance at the Bernabeu with another exciting attacking showing and should have got himself an assist when he charged upfield and fed substitute Correa, who was incorrectly called offside.
MF Saul Niguez, 8 -- His stock continues to rise and he is knocking hard on the door for a place in the Spain squad ahead of the Euros this summer. Fired over early on, scored a goal and was all-around brilliant in his passing and tackling. An essential player for Simeone in this team and, at 21, he will only get better with age.
MF Gabi, 7 -- Another solid display. Covered every blade of grass for the side and was comfortable in midfield. Taken off with the game sewn up as to not incur a suspension-triggering yellow card.
MF Augusto Fernandez, 6 -- A strange game for Augusto given that the Basque outfit had no real midfield presence, but he did what was asked of him. However, he was very lucky not to pick up a booking that would have seen him ruled out against Valencia, having needlessly lunged into a tackle on the cusp of full-time.
MF Koke, 7 -- Fired in the cross that led to Reyes' own goal and was solid, if unspectacular, all evening on the left side.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 9 -- Another man of the match display from the Frenchman, who pushed on from his standout display over the weekend. Forced Geronimo Rulli into a good save early on before feeding Luciano Vietto with a perfect lobbed pass that led to the second goal. Griezmann then won and subsequently scored the penalty for his side's third, which came complete with a now customary non-celebration celebration against his former club. Another one who was a yellow card away from suspension, the attacker was taken off for Correa just after the hour mark to a standing ovation.
FW Luciano Vietto, 6 -- A mixed night for the Argentine who put in a good shift up top. Was positive in his running and produced a good cross for Saul to volley home but ultimately remains without a league goal since October, not good for a centre-forward. Substitutions:
Lucas Hernandez (for Godin, 55"), 6 -- He truthfully had little to do, although the side did look noticeably less sure in the air defensively once Godin went off.
Angel Correa (for Griezmann, 62"), 7 -- Allowed Griezmann to put his feet up for half an hour and can count himself unlucky not to have a goal given his volley was incorrectly ruled out for offside. Surely must be in with a shout of a start next time out.
Oliver Torres (for Gabi, 76"), NR -- On for the final quarter-hour but had little chance to impress with the game done and dusted.
Joseph is a sports journalist based in the Spanish capital and covers Atletico Madrid regularly. Follow him on Twitter @Joe_in_espana.