Morata and Saul strikes help Atletico down Osasuna 2-0

Osasuna's Sergio Herrera was in magnificent form at the Wanda Metropolitano before Alvaro Morata and Saul Niguez sealed an Atletico win.

Saul Niguez beats Sergio Herrera to put Atletico Madrid 2-0 up in the 75th minute.   -  Getty Images

Alvaro Morata ensured Atletico Madrid got back to winning ways in LaLiga as Diego Simeone's side battled to a 2-0 victory over Osasuna.

A month had passed since Atleti's previous top-flight triumph over Espanyol on November 10 and the brilliance of Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera looked like spelling another frustrating outing at the Wanda Metropolitano.

But Morata dispatched an emphatic header midway through the second half to break the deadlock and Saul Niguez doubled the advantage 15 minutes from time.

Los Rojiblancos move up to fourth in the table, six shy of Barcelona after the leader was held to a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad earlier on Saturday.

Herrera began a busy first half by thwarting Morata at close quarters before the former Juventus striker turned provider and played in Joao Felix in the 23rd minute – the Osasuna keeper saving with his boot.

A double stop from Herrera spared Jagoba Arrasate's side 10 minutes from half-time, parrying a shot on the angle from Thomas Lemar and getting back into position to repel Koke's follow-up drive.

The pick of Herrera's work came in the 39th minute when, at full stretch, he turned Joao Felix's header from teenage debutant Manuel Sanchez's left-wing centre onto the crossbar.

He was not done there, keeping out Thomas Partey's rasping long-ranger and frustrating Joao Felix once more to ensure parity at the interval.

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Morata got behind the visiting defence only to miss his kick woefully and Herrera's masterclass continued as he saved with his foot from Sanchez.

Avila's sweetly struck volley kept Jan Oblak honest in the Atleti goal before Sanchez was finally beaten in the 67th minute.

Trippier delivered a typically threatening set-piece from the right and Morata put his earlier profligacy behind him to power home.

Saul sealed the points in style, darting forward from the unfamiliar position of left-back to dink over Sanchez – Simeone letting out a guttural roar on the touchline.

 

What does it mean? Simeone's spluttering stars stay in the title picture

Clear vulnerabilities at Barcelona and Real Madrid this season have thrown up opportunities an Atletico side also in transition has failed to capitalise upon. It has still drawn more matches than it has won in LaLiga this season, but the obvious room for improvement and its proximity to the top of the table should be cause for mid-season encouragement.

Heroic Herrera ill-served by defeat

It was easy to sense the belief draining from Atletico before Morata broke through, with much of that down to a truly phenomenal goalkeeping display in the visiting goal. Herrera's efforts as Atletico laid siege to the Osasuna area during the closing stages of the first half were out of the very top drawer.

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Frustration for Joao Felix

To his credit, the prodigiously talented 20-year-old does not hide when things are not falling his way, but this became an increasingly frustrating outing for Joao Felix – the open spaces Atletico's record signing found earlier on turning into blind alleys before his 82nd-minute withdrawal. Nevertheless, his developing partnership with Morata could be a huge asset in 2020.

Key Opta stats

- No LaLiga player has scored more headed goals than Morata this season in all competitions (four, level with Espanyol’s Facundo Ferreyra).

- Trippier has made two assists so far in his Atletico career, both ending in Morata headed goals.

- Atletico had six shots on target in the opening 45 minutos against Osasuna, its highest total in the first half of a game this season in all competitions.

- Lemar has failed to score or assist in his last 24 matches for Atletico in all competitions, his worst run without a goal or an assist since his debut for Caen in August 2014.

- Sanchez, at 19 years and 112 days, became the youngest Atletico player to start a game in all competitions since Lucas Hernandez (18y 327d) in January 2015 against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

What's next?

Atletico travels to Real Betis for its final game of 2019 next Sunday, while Osasuna hosts Real Sociedad after taking on minnows Lorca Deportiva in the Copa del Rey.

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