Kevin Gameiro’s first-half goal was enough as Atletico Madrid laboured to a 1-0 win over Eibar, whose seven-match unbeaten LaLiga run came to an end.
Diego Simeone made 10 changes from the 3-0 Copa del Rey defeat of Lleida on Tuesday, with Diego Costa among those left on the bench, and while Atletico hardly produced a memorable performance, Gameiro’s well-crafted goal proved to be all they needed
Atletico looked capable of making light work for Eibar early on, playing some great football and creating decent chances for Angel Correa and Koke.
As such, it came as little surprise when the breakthrough did arrive, as Gameiro rounded off a fine break with his fourth league goal of the season.
But, thereafter Atletico offered very little from an attacking perspective, an aspect of their performance which stayed with them deep into the second half, with Eibar looking the more purposeful.
Eibar’s need for an equaliser saw Atletico defend desperately towards the end and the hosts also had a penalty shout turned down, but Simeone’s men held on to move them to within six points of pacesetters Barcelona, who head to Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Atletico looked unperturbed by Eibar’s excellent recent run of form during the early exchanges, as they took charge and crafted a couple of excellent chances.
The first came about at the end of a well-worked passing move by the visitors, Correa sending a cross-cum-shot – with Gameiro almost getting to it – agonisingly wide of the bottom-left corner.
65’ | 0-1 |@kevingameiro9 is in fine form! Two goals in our last two matches! #EibarAtleti#AupaAtletipic.twitter.com/dbrQHeHnMs— Atletico de Madrid (@atletienglish) January 13, 2018
And a similar move in the 11th minute presented Koke with the chance to score, but the Spain international slammed into the side-netting following Sime Vrsaljko’s cross.
There was to be no denying Atleti just before the half-hour mark, though.
Antoine Griezmann sprang the offside trap when chasing Saul’s through pass and coolly squared to his compatriot Gameiro, who tucked past the helpless Marko Dmitrovic.
Eibar nearly responded with a quick equaliser, but Sergi Enrich headed Joan Jordan’s right-wing cross just over.
The home side offered a lot more attacking intent after the break and enjoyed plenty of possession, with the half-time introduction of tricky Chile international Fabian Orellana making a significant difference.
5 - Antoine Griezmann has assisted with his first touch in opposite box - he is the player who has assited in most Kevin Gameiro’s goals as Atletico players in La Liga. Partners pic.twitter.com/NzC0sxh8w4— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 13, 2018
Even with their improved performance, Eibar had to rely on a slice of luck for their first clear chance of the second half just after the hour mark, as Enrich’s header took a huge deflection off Diego Godin and was crucially stopped on the line by a relieved Jan Oblak.
Eibar’s pressing almost resulted in them getting punished on the break 16 minutes from the end, but Dmitrovic did well to block Griezmann’s effort at the end of a swift counter.
Atletico somehow survived in stoppage time, as Kike Garcia sent a glancing header just past the left-hand post, before Augusto Fernandez got away with handling the ball in the area in the build-up to another brilliant chance which Enrich prodded wide from close range.