Atletico Madrid‘s stumbling start in La Liga took a turn for the worse on Saturday as a late equaliser from Borja Garces was only enough to rescue a 1-1 draw at home to Eibar.
Eibar appeared to have snatched a shock victory when Sergi Enrich finished in the 87th minute, only for Borja to salvage Atletico a point with virtually the last kick of the game.
But there were no celebrations at the final whistle. Atletico were considered serious title challengers this season but another two points dropped means they have now taken only five from their first four games.
Real Madrid and Barcelona, who both play later on Saturday, could be seven points clear by the end of the day.
Atleti created enough chances. They had 18 shots in total, but Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa were both wasteful and as the game wore on, Eibar’s confidence grew.
Diego Simeone put on a brave face after the match. ‘I would worry if we had not created those chances to score,’ he said. ‘The team also showed a reaction after their goal. We continued to push forward and managed to take a point.’
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He might have liked to keep one eye on their Champions League opener against Monaco on Tuesday, with this year’s competition holding extra kudos for the club, given the final will be held here at the Wanda Metropolitano next June.
But a victory here was much-needed and, despite a strong line-up that included summer signings Thomas Lemar and Rodrigo, Atleti have now recorded their worst league start since 2009.
Rodrigo was composed and there were jeers at the decision to replace him in the second half. Lemar, who was bought for 70m euros from Monaco, is yet to find his feet in Spain and the Frenchman came off after a disjointed display, to muted applause.
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Eibar could have taken the lead when a sizzling half-volley from Cote grazed the crossbar in the opening five minutes but that was close as they came in the first half, which was largely an impressive showreel of Atletico misses.
Griezmann was guiltiest, first seeing a shot saved by Marko Dmitrovic with his feet and then failing to tee up Costa when he would have been better finishing himself.
Saul, Diego Godin and Costa were all too imprecise to beat the imperious Dmitrovic but Koke had no excuse when he too feathered wide from six yards shortly after half-time.
After yet another missed pass, Lemar was replaced by Angel Correa but as Atletico became frantic, Eibar could have capitalised, Anaitz Arbilla‘s drive again clipping the crossbar on its way over.
With 20 minutes left, Griezmann raced clear but lashed the ball into Dmitrovic’s body.
It seemed the game could even end in defeat for Atletico when the ball landed perfectly for Enrich to smash in for Eibar from two yards.
Borja, however, spared some of Atletico’s blushes with a superb shot into the corner deep into injury-time but the roar from the crowd was short-lived. There was only disappointment at the final whistle.
Spanish La Liga results on Saturday 15 September
Atletico Madrid 1 Eibar 1
Huesca 0 Rayo Vallecano 1 (played Friday)
Real Sociedad v Barcelona
Valencia v Real Betis
Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid
Leganes v Villarreal
Espanyol v Levante
Real Valladolid v Alaves
Sevilla v Getafe
Girona v Celta Vigo