Radamel Falcao scored a penalty in stoppage-time to deny Atletico Madrid victory and earn Rayo Vallecano a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.
A 20th-minute strike from Alvaro Morata would have been the difference between the two sides in a low-key affair, but a Jose Gimenez handball saw Vallecano given a penalty at the death, with Falcao the hero as he converted from the spot against his former club to give the visitors an unlikely point.
It was a game starved of any real clear-cut chances, Atleti found their rhythm at the moment that they needed it as Antoine Griezmann led a high press that forced the mistake from Fran Garcia. The Frenchman then had the awareness to find Morata, who swept home beyond the helpless Stole Dimitrievski.
The visitors struggled to really get into the game as they were suffocated by the hosts’ midfield box, with their two wide men inverting to form more of a 4-2-2-2, outnumbering the Vallecano double pivot and attacking midfielder.
Hence, Andoni Iraola was forced into a half-time change, replacing Jose Pozo with the more box-to-box Santi Comesana as he switched to a 4-3-3 to get a foothold of the engine room.
Comesana almost had the visitors level as his cross found Pathe Ciss at the back post, but the Senegalese nodded wide of the target from close range on 50 minutes.
Morata went close from a 57th-minute Griezmann corner as he peeled away from his marker at the far post to nod narrowly wide, but that was home side came in the dying embers of a drab encounter.
Substitute Sergio Camello showed his parent club what he could do as he turned on a sixpence and dragged a shot wide of Ivo Grbic’s far post on 69 minutes.
Grbic pulled off a decent save on 72 minutes to deny Falcao one-on-one, with the Colombian trying to drill one low beneath the keeper, but the Croatian was equal to it.
But, in the last minute, Jose Gimenez was adjudged to have handled a cross, giving Falcao the chance to steal a point for the visitors, and he did so with great aplomb.
TALKING POINT – TOOTHLESS ATLETI
We normally associate Atletico with the profile of player they have within their deep squad, but they were terrible going forward in this game.
Griezmann was their only bright spark in the final third, with the exception of the goalscorer Morata who was hauled off to be rested on the hour. Thomas Lemar and Rodrigo de Paul as the two tens were poor in their final ball, albeit Lemar came off injured in the first half.
Yannick Carrasco was quiet himself when he replaced the Frenchman, and Angel Correa and Matheus Cunha were wasteful in their substitute cameos.
We know how engrained Diego Simeone is in his pragmatic ways, but here is a clear example where they came back to bite his side. They lacked the ruthlessness to kill off poor opposition, and against a better opponent, they would have lost this game.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – ANTOINE GRIEZMANN, ATLETICO MADRID
A diamond in the rough.
The Frenchman was the only real creative spark on the pitch, as he was the only one that really took the game by the scruff of the neck.
His first-half performance was exemplary as many of his team-mates looked uninterested and unmotivated, but it was his eye for a pass and willingness to win the ball back that saw the hosts net the opener. Had Griezmann not put the first-half shift that he did in,
Atletico could well not have any points to show for their awful performance.
Atleti: Grbic 6, Molina 6, Savic 6 . Gimenez 6, Reinildo 6, De Paul 5, Witsel 6, Kondogbia 6, Lemar 5, Griezmann 7, Morata 6. Subs: Carrasco 5, Cunha 5, Correa 5, Saul 5.
Rayo: Dimitrievski 6, Balliu 6, Mumin 6, Catena 5, Garcia 6, Valentin 6, Ciss 6, Palazon 6, Pozo 5, Garcia 5, Falcao 6. Subs: Comesana 6, Camello 6, Munoz 5, Nteka 5, Lopez 5.
20′: GOAL! It’s Alvaro Morata, who rattles home after a good press; Griezmann won the ball back, sought out Morata, who fired into the far corner.
50′: CLOSE! Rayo come close as Ciss misses a close-range header that he really should have scored. Great pick out from Comesana.
57′: CLOSE! A pinpoint delivery from the Frenchman is met by Morata, but he nods wide under close attention from Baillu.
63′: GOOD SAVE Molina does well down the right as he advances into the box, feeding Cunha, who rushes the shot, and it’s a tame effort into the gloves of Dimitrievski.
90′: PENALTY? VAR are going to look at a potential handball… It’s given, and its Falcao on it. // GOAL! Falcao scores, and it’s 1-1!