Atletico Madrid’s erratic form continued on Saturday as Diego Simeone’s men were lucky to hold Alaves to a 0-0 LaLiga draw in Vitoria.
A 2-2 stalemate at Athletic Bilbao last time out in the league demonstrated Atletico’s character as they netted a late leveller, but they were dominated from start to finish at Alaves and looked utterly toothless in attack.
Atletico pair Saul Niguez and Koke were often overrun, particularly in the first half, with Alaves enjoying complete control and going close to breaking the deadlock on numerous occasions.
Deyverson was particularly culpable for wasting two fine opportunities, the second of which came just after Victor Laguardia struck the visitors’ crossbar.
Atleti were routinely let off the hook by Alaves’ questionable finishing, with Victor Camarasa also spurning a chance early in the second half.
The men from the capital showed a little more fight towards the end as Alaves began to tire, but ultimately the hosts had little difficulty keeping them at bay, meaning Simeone’s side could finish the weekend 10 points behind pacesetters Real Madrid, who face Real Sociedad on Sunday.
The contest ended on a sour note, as Deyverson and Diego Godin were caught on camera spitting at each other and could face retrospective action.
Simeone was forced into naming a very attack-minded line-up due to injuries and suspensions in midfield, but that forward-thinking approach only played into the hands of Alaves.
The hosts should have gone ahead as early as the eighth minute, as Kiko Femenia’s right-wing cross picked out Ibai Gomez at the far post and the winger’s effort was parried by Miguel Angel Moya, before Deyverson scuffed the rebound wide.
Atletico struggled to get out of their own half, with Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann particularly anonymous.
And they had a lucky escape after half an hour, as Atletico-owned Theo Hernandez’s free-kick delivery was volleyed on to the frame of the goal by Laguardia and then Deyverson inexplicably headed over from close range.
The match opened up at the start of the second half, though Alaves remained a big threat and went close five minutes after the restart.
The lively Camarasa darted on to Gaizka Toquero’s headed flick-on but was forced a little wider than he would have liked and could only find the side-netting with his close-range chipped effort.
Simeone opted to replace the ineffective Gameiro and Yannick Carrasco with Angel Correa and Fernando Torres just after the hour.
Neither made a huge difference, but Atletico did nearly take all three points 12 minutes from time when Nico Gaitan ran clear and attempted to round goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco, only for him to make vital contact with his hand.
Alaves almost wrapped up a win for themselves in the dying moments, but Theo was denied a dramatic winner against his parent club by a strong Moya save, while tempers flared between the sides at the final whistle